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Leave Dana White alone! Please.

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Thanks, Jimmy, for putting this back on the menu. After all, what would we have done today if we didn’t have one of soccer’s ol’, chip-on-the-shoulder chestnuts to roast (only watch two of the most successful clubs in the world).

In case you hadn’t heard, MMA mogul Dana White isn’t a fan of soccer. If you hadn’t heard, you might not be that big a fan of soccer either, because brows were mightily furrowed last week when White’s views his the Twit-a-Blog-o-verse-a-`book.

White is one of the most successful men in modern sport. He’s helped the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)  squash its competition and become one of the most sought-after properties in the world. His accomplishments put him in the Mark Cuban-esque realm of modern sports executives, a description which may actually undersell what he’s achieved. White is truly unique.

One place where he is not unique, however, is in his view of soccer. Calling it “the least-talented sport on Earth” and asking “how untalented [do] you have to be to score three times when the net is that big,” White echoed the views we’ve heard over and over again. Soccer sucks.

If anything, White’s comments were tame, especially when we’ve become used to hearing far worse (link to utter train wreck). He didn’t use sexist language to characterize the sport. He didn’t use the words “sissy” or “cheater”. He doesn’t wrap it in red scare or break out xenophobic language. He, basically, said he didn’t appreciate soccer.

Full disclosure: I don’t appreciate NASCAR. I don’t appreciate cricket or a myriad of other sports that are really popular and have obvious virtues. I don’t appreciate golf or baseball, and I used to be good at those. And if you catch me at the wrong time and have a microphone (and prep me with a few beers), you can get me to say some hyperbolic stuff about those games. Of course, I’m not Dana White.

But beyond White’s celebrity, why is this a big deal? Well, we’re tired of hearing it, for one. It’s old and tired and unimaginative and really, if you can’t find a better way to say something that could have just as easily come out of your dad’s mouth, you don’t have much to contribute. All you’re doing is trolling a thread where the original post is over 100 years old. Good job.

We’re also tired media outlets being (seemingly) reticent to embrace soccer, and since we’re seeing MMA on our televisions more and more (be it on CBS, FOX, FX, or more exotic sources), there’s the subtext of mixed martial arts filling space created by baseball’s wane – space that could otherwise go to soccer. That White is the obvious face of MMA only helps us put two and two together.

But if you watch the video of his comments (some of which is in the clip, below), White isn’t at a podium giving some kind of UFC State of the Union on the organization’s soccer platform. He’s a guy – clearly sitting around a bunch of people who are more than willing to laugh at his jokes – that gives an opinion. It’s not a new opinion. It’s not put in a new context. It’s the same opinion that we’ve not only heard for years but one to which Dana White should be entitled.

Soccer doesn’t need to convert Dana White. Soccer is doing fine. It is, after all, the world’s most popular sport, even if it’s not the most popular sport here. Soccer has nothing to prove, and we certainly shouldn’t get our feelings hurt when Dana White doesn’t share our zeal. I never liked sharing my toys, anyway.

All of which is why I can’t get on board with latest offering from Jimmy Conrad at Kick TV:

First, props to Conrad for keeping the message largely positive, even if he’s calling a guy out. I wish I could always be as good-spirited about things.

But if I’m going to call White’s message unimaginative, I have to look at Conrad’s in the same light. Conrad’s comeback to the MMA mogul is, essentially, challenging White to a game. It’s the quarterback sneak of imaginative responses. Calling it an open letter doesn’t help, either. I think we’ve run the gambit on internet open letters (it’s the internet – everything’s an open letter).

Credit to White who – in a subtle backpedal from last week’s kerfuffle – happily embraced Conrad’s challenge, telling him on Twitter, “I’m in bro!!!” Three exclamation points, bro. That’s practically a signature on the USS Missouri.

But why the need for the challenge in the first place? Or, why the need to stir this up again, one week after boxers were bunched? And who really cares of White can play soccer? If he’s terrible, turns around and says, “Wow, you soccer guys really proved something to me,” does it mean anything? Not one person is going to say “well, Dana likes it, so I’ll give it a try,” in the same way not one person heard White’s original comments and said “oh, man. I guess can’t like soccer anymore.”

Dana White doesn’t like soccer. I’m OK with that, and in truth, I’m also OK with Jimmy Conrad getting an interesting video out of the material.

But for the rest of us, let’s just get used to it: Some people don’t like soccer. I’m sure we’ll be fine. We don’t need to blog it into the ground, and our Twitter timelines are better served talking about Mad Men’s return …

Or soccer. Leave Dana White alone.

City Council approves plans for new Los Angeles soccer venue

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LOS ANGELES (AP) The City Council has approved plans to build a $250 million stadium for Major League Soccer’s expansion Los Angeles Football Club.

[ MORE: Can MLS teams begin to create separation in Week 10? ]

The council voted 12-0 Friday to move forward with a 22,000-seat stadium on the site of the old Sports Arena next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and USC.

The 15-acre complex is also slated to include a conference center, restaurants, 140,000 square feet of plazas and streetscapes, and a soccer museum.

At its center would be the home to the new MLS team when it makes its debut in 2018.

LAFC is owned by Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan, American venture capitalist Henry Nguyen and a celebrity-studded list of investors including Magic Johnson, Tony Robbins, Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra.

Barcelona reportedly seeking out Nice winger Hatem Ben Afra

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Lost in the 2015-16 campaign has been Nice attacker Hatem Ben Afra.

[ MORE: Leicester can provide more magic at home vs. Everton ]

While Paris Saint-Germain has stolen the spotlight in France for much of this season, the former Newcastle midfielder has been nothing short of special for Les Aiglons.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s PL picks are in for Week 37 ]

That has left La Liga giant Barcelona contacting the 29-year old Frenchman over his services, according to Nice president Jean Pierre Rivere.

Rivere told France 3 he wouldn’t mind Ben Afra exiting the club:

“I would be very happy for him and for Nice if this move comes off,” Rivère said. “You do not reject Barcelona, but it is up to him to decide. If I was a player and Barcelona was offered to me I would not ask questions, I would go! But it is not yet done according to what I am told.”

In 32 appearances this season for Nice, Ben Afra has notched 17 goals and added five assists. He ranks third in goals, only behind PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon.

Barcelona could very well be the frontrunners to acquire the talented attacker, but several European sides have also expressed interest in Ben Afra. Premier League clubs Chelsea and Liverpool, as well as AC Milan have also been named as potential suitors.

[ MORE: What do other PL teams have to say about Leicester? ]

Ben Afra’s age may be a bit of a concern for the Blaugrana though, in addition to the fact that this current season is the only time in his career that he has tallied double-digit goals. The Lyon academy product could provide solid depth to Barcelona’s attack should a deal get finalized.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Everton

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  • Leicester simply playing for home pride
  • Everton seek top-10 finish

Leicester City host Everton on Saturday from the King Power Stadium (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra) in hopes of providing its fans with a season-capping victory, after winning the Premier League title on Monday.

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By now everyone has seen Christian Fuchs‘ video of the Leicester players in celebration mode, but there are still two games left to play. The match against Everton may be more about pride than anything else, but it can still represent an important feat for the club and serve as a true celebration in front of their home supporters.

Jamie Vardy‘s return will provide the fans with yet another moment to applaud and you’d expect the Leicester forward to want to add to his 22 PL goals.

[ MORE: Norwich in desperate need of three points vs. Manchester United ]

The Foxes will be met by an Everton side that don’t really have anything to play for either. Toffees manager Roberto Martinez will surely be looking for a win with his job on the line, however, it’s left to be seen whether or not he can actually maintain his position. Everton has finished in the PL top 10 each of the last eight seasons, and a finish outside of that mark would be a huge setback for the club.

What they’re saying…

Ranieri on his team competing: “Inside me there are two people. One is a very aggressive, I want to win, I won the Premier League but now I want to win on Saturday.”

Martinez on Leicester not letting up: “I’m sure any sort of celebration could affect you in the long term if you had to face a difficult month. In a 90-minute game where the stadium is going to be an historic environment, I’m sure that can only be positive for the home team.”

Prediction

The title is already theirs but why wouldn’t Leicester win this match? The KP Stadium will be rocking into the night and the Foxes will come away with a convincing 3-0 win against Everton.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

Premier League Preview: Norwich City vs. Manchester United

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  • Norwich sit two points out of 17th place
  • United in battle with West Ham for Europe
  • Canaries are losers of three straight

Norwich City host Manchester United from Carrow Road on Saturday (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) as the Canaries seek Premier League safety with two weeks remaining.

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With their season on the line, Norwich is facing desperation as they meet Manchester United. The Canaries posted just one win in four matches in April, leaving them 19th in the PL. While neither Newcastle nor Sunderland were able to create separation between themselves and Norwich, a win against United is a necessity with three games left to play.

Goals have come at a minimum this season for the Canaries, leaving Nathan Redmond and Dieumerci Mbokani in need of a big game. Each player has notched five goals this season for the side.

[ MORE: Ranieri’s on-field changes as manager have propelled Leicester ]

Disappointment has surrounded United for much of the 2015-16 season, however, the Red Devils still have important matches to play down the stretch. That starts with Norwich. Sitting four points behind fourth place Manchester City and holding a game in hand, Louis Van Gaal‘s club can close the gap on the Citizens with a strong performance on Saturday.

What they’re saying…

Neil on match’s importance: “Everybody knows the situation, so I don’t think it is going to have massive difference in terms of how we would approach the game or they (relegation rivals) would approach the game. What it does do is apply pressure to their game, but there will be pressure on that anyway. They will recognise and we recognise that all the teams need to win games to stay in the division.”

Van Gaal on injury struggles: “I always talk about facts, not about hypothetical circumstance and activities. I can only say that in the end of November we had first position, after that we had a big decline.”

Prediction

Despite playing in front of a feisty home crowd at Carrow Road and picking up a 2-1 victory early this season against United, the Canaries chances aren’t too optimistic. Norwich hasn’t scored in three straight matches, all of which were losses. With United still playing for something I don’t expect the Red Devils to drop this match. Give United the points on the road, 3-1, leaving Norwich to rely on Aston Villa and Chelsea to pick up wins.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

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