Chivas USA v Colorado Rapids

Drilling down on: Colorado 2, at FC Dallas 0

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Man of the Match: Veteran midfielder Brian Mullan provided both assists on clean crosses from the right side, one in the air to Jaime Castrillon and one along the ground to Martin Rivero. Before the game broke down into a 11-on-9 oddity, Mullan was doing his part to keep the FC Dallas right side in check.

Packaged for take-away:

  • Well, you don’t see this very often: Dallas was two men down in the 37th minute. The second half was something that resembled training ground stuff, almost entirely in Dallas’ end, with the home team reduced to an occasional 1 on 3 “break.”
  • Interestingly, Dallas set up in two banks of four after intermission. So, the old 4-4-0 if you like.
  • Final shot total: 23-1
  • Daniel Hernandez was excused in the 35th minute for a second yellow. His first was thoughtless and totally unnecessary, for jawing at referee Mark Geiger. The second caution was wholly justified for an overly aggressive challenge near midfield.
  • Two minutes later, Blas Perez was shown red for going into a challenge with Drew Moor with his cleats exposed. It wasn’t a good challenge, but it wasn’t an obvious red, more clumsy than menacing. So whether Geiger might have shown a little discretion, just two minutes after another expulsion the same team, could be asked.
  • Both ejections could be argued as justified on their individual merits, but the referee’s relative inexperience played a part, too. The problem started when Geiger turned the temperature up in the match by refusing to call obvious, early fouls. For the set who like to scream at referees “Let ’em play, referee!” … well, this is sometimes what happens when you “let ’em play.”  Tempers become frayed. By halftime Geiger had shown four yellows and two reds. And that’s why the men in the middle should call fouls when he or she sees them.
  • Brek Shea was left out of FC Dallas’ lineup with a turf toe ailment.
  • If you’re counting, that’s six FC Dallas midfielders on the injury shelf.
  • It wasn’t all good for Colorado. Omar Cummings limped off after just 13 minutes, having gotten his foot caught in the turf. Early reports were of a left ankle sprain.
  • Kevin Hartman keeps adding to his MLS record total of all-time saves. His first Sunday was No. 1,400. But he’ll have to wait for career win No. 175; Hartman remains one off that total.
  • At the other end, Matt Pickens’ shutout is No. 26 in a Rapids shirt, which makes him the club’s all-time leader.
  • Conor Casey entered at halftime as Oscar Pareja went into a 3-4-3 alignment. This was Casey’s most minutes in a year.
  • Jeff Larentowicz was steady all night for Colorado, distributing from a deep midfield spot with a calm patience throughout the second half. That was the right way for the Rapids, who would have done themselves no favors putting a big rush on things. As it was, they finally broke down Dallas’ stacked defense, earning the three points for manager Oscar Pareja, who had spent so much time in Dallas as a player and assistant coach.

LIVE: Man City, Stoke, Everton face second-tier teams in League Cup quarters

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City FC
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Three of the four Capital One Cup quarterfinals take place on Tuesday with three Premier League teams facing second-tier opposition.

“What’s that, did somebody say banana skin?”

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Manchester City host Hull City at the Etihad Stadium with Manuel Pellegrini‘s side hoping to have David Silva back in the starting lineup but Joe Hart is still out injured so Willy Caballero will continue in goal. Steve Bruce‘s side drew 1-1 at the Etihad last season when they visited City before being relegated from the Premier League. The Tigers are fighting for instant promotion back to the big-time and knocked out Leicester City on penalty kicks in the last round.

Everton face a tricky trip to the Riverside Stadium as Roberto Martinez and the Toffees play Middlesbrough. Aitor Karanka’s side lost in the play-off final to Norwich last season but are looking good for promotion this term as they sit second in the second-tier and knocked out Manchester United on penalty kicks in the last round. Can Everton sort out their defensive frailties?

A third PL club has a tricky test coming up on Tuesday as Stoke City’s reward for beating Chelsea on PKs in the last round is a home game against Sheffield Wednesday. This will be no stroll in the park for Mark Hughes‘ side as the second-tier Owls comfortably knocked off Arsenal in the last round and this game has “cupset” written all over it.

Below are the fixtures for Tuesday as you can click on the link above to follow all the games live.

League Cup quarterfinals


Manchester City vs. Hull City – 2:45 p.m. ET
Middlesbrough vs. Everton – 2:45 p.m. ET
Stoke City vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 2:45 p.m. ET

FIFA sponsors demand “independent oversight” of reforms
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LONDON (AP) Five of FIFA’s sponsors have written to the executive committee of soccer’s scandal-battered governing body demanding “independent oversight” of the reform process.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Sponsors were originally promised places on the FIFA reform committee. But instead of being invited into meetings discussing the overhaul of the organization, they have only been offered seats on an advisory board which is yet to be appointed.

The sponsors’ letter was sent from Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch to FIFA’s ruling body ahead of meetings this week.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

The letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press, says it is “clear to us that such independent oversight needs to run long-term through the implementation and evolution of the reform process.”

The reform committee was established following the indictment of soccer officials by American authorities.

VIDEO: Gerrard returns to Liverpool for training in MLS offseason

Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League
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Steven Gerrard is back at Liverpool.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

The legendary midfielder, 35, has returned to the Reds just six months after leaving his hometown club for a new adventure in Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy.

Gerrard spent a glittering 17-years at Anfield, guiding Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League title and winning every other major title except for the elusive Premier League crown.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

After suffering an early exit from the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs with the Galaxy, Gerrard is now back in England and he’s using his time at home to train with Liverpool’s first-team and help out in any way he can as Jurgen Klopp has allowed him to come back into the dressing room he called home for nearly two decades.

“It’s a good situation,” Klopp said. “Everybody had a smile on their face when they saw Stevie. It’s good to have him here and we hope we can help him, and he can help us for sure with being in the dressing room. It’s cool.”

Below are photos and videos from Gerrard’s return as Klopp once again quashed any rumors regarding a loan move for the former Liverpool skipper who will enter his first full MLS season in 2016 with the Galaxy.

French PM says Benzema has no place on national team

Karim Benzema, France
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PARIS (AP) The French prime minister joined in the criticism of Karim Benzema on Tuesday, saying the Real Madrid striker “has no place” on the France team at the European Championship in the wake of a blackmail scandal.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Benzema is one of France’s key players as it gets ready to host the Euro 2016 tournament, but the forward faces charges of conspiracy to blackmail relating to an extortion scam over a sex tape. He is suspected of having played an active role in pressuring France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, a case that has badly damaged his reputation.

“A great athlete should be exemplary,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio Europe 1. “If he is not, he has no place within the France team.”

The investigation, centering on wiretap evidence, started when Valbuena took legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to possess an incriminating sex tape.

In a case that could drag on for months, Benzema’s involvement has not yet been fully determined. But investigators who charged him in October believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers.

“If a minister was handed preliminary charges, he would no longer be part of the government,” Valls said.

Benzema denies any wrongdoing but his arguments were undermined last week when Valbuena spoke directly about his attempts to pressure him in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

[ MORE: City now valued at $3 billion ]

The French football federation has also joined the case as plaintiff.

“There are so many kids, so many youngsters in our suburbs that relate to great athletes,” Valls said. “They wear the blue jersey, the colors of France, which are so important in these moments.”

Preliminary charges under French law mean magistrates have strong reason to believe a crime was committed, and allow time for further investigation. The charges may later be dropped. In 2010, Benzema was handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute but was acquitted in a case that lasted more than three years and tarnished his reputation.

Benzema’s image was further dented last month when he spat on the pitch after the national anthem was played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium in a tribute to the 130 fatalities of the Paris attacks ahead of a match against Barcelona.

Benzema’s action ignited a wave of criticism on social media, prompting his lawyers to issue a statement in which they condemned “the scandalous interpretation” of the incident. Benzema, who has 27 international goals, had posted several messages in support of the victims in the days that followed the attacks.