Thoughtful Olympic rehash: So much style, but what of substance?

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Hipsters, models and fashion mavens step over one another to set the next trend in clothing style. Kids kick it “street style.”  Weather may dictate seasonal style. And lest we forget that fashion fades, but style is eternal. Or so I hear.

At the end of the day, of course, we’re really just talking about composites and material to protect ourselves from sun, from the nasty elements and from strangers seeing our tummies. At some point, it’s not “style,” it’s just essential coverage.

It’s a good thing to remember about our soccer, too, this pursuit of “style.” Especially on the “mourning after.”

Did the U.S. under-23 soccer team, along with the rest of us, lose the plot along the way, paying a little too much attention to style while paying improper heed to time-tested tenets of athletic competition?

Perhaps. Maybe it’s just a learning curve as the U.S. search for its soccer style slogs inexorably forward – whatever that means to everyone individually.

There’s really no problem with these discussions, nothing misguided about scouring the lands in search of our passing-and-trapping brand, so long as this elusive fox hunt remains rooted in a simple concept:

Style is a means to an end … not the finish line itself.

Anyone think maybe that simple notion got misplaced along the way to Nashville?

In domestic soccer circles, talk of style became de rigueur as Jurgen Klinsmann inherited the top U.S. post eight months back. Klinsmann never imagined we would “style” our way to soccer’s promised land; he’s no dummy that way. But he did want to influence a better way forward, a methodology with a further view up the field, so to speak. (Never mind that his biggest win, last month in Italy, tilted smartly back toward a pragmatic approach.)

So it was with Caleb Porter’s 4-3-3, stylistic and dynamic as it was for his under-23s. And it was so pretty to watch!  So very Ajax-in-the-day. Especially against Cuba in the American Group A opener. The geometric triangles inspired by the great Dutch sides under Rinus Michels were being drawn up like so much chalk talk in the locker room.

But Cuba, defensively disheveled and chronically unfocussed, was never a barometer. Then came the crushers, which were. Barometers, that is.

While some of us debated merits of “style,” Canada and El Salvador (big credit to both, by the way) reminded everyone that so much of the game is about desire and passion. It’s about leadership and chemistry. It’s about roster balance, with a few technically competent mudders who don’t give a hoot about style so long as they get to leave a mark here and there.

It’s about identifying the men who can rise to the moment (young men though they are).

I like and appreciate an attractive match as much as the next guy. It is the “beautiful game,” after all. These are important discussions in U.S. soccer circles, about playing a better brand, etc. – but the talks always deserve rooting in a foundation of something bigger.

Style in itself can never win a match – and at some point that’s what it’s all about.

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga