Are things about to get better or worse around Red Bull Arena with the return of Rafa Marquez from his three-game suspension?
Hans Backe’s team is doing OK lately, after all, having hung on in difficult circumstances two weeks ago against New England (and watching leading scorer Thierry Henry limp off with a pulled hamstring) and were tactically perfect in a huge 1-0 win at Los Angeles.
But Marquez is, indeed available for selection Wednesday against Houston. So is left back Roy Miller, who will probably come regain his left back spot ahead of rookie Conor Lade.
Lade has often looked like a rookie out there. That’s not to say he did badly, because he didn’t. But you got the feeling he was just hanging on sometimes, stretched just to get the job done.
Not so with midfielder Dax McCarty. What Backe told MLSSoccer.com:
I always said and thought that [McCarty’s] strength was from the halfway line and forward. But now perhaps playing a little bit deeper he has the whole picture of the field in front of him. … His passing, he only had two, three unforced errors in this game [against LA]. Overall, defending phenomenal, so let’s see if that is perhaps his position for the future.”
So, do you remove that guy for Marquez, who simply won’t have the range or the energy to get into passing lanes and harass attackers as McCarty has?
The X factor here is scheduling. Specifically, the Red Bulls put a lot into Saturday’s win, and then flew across country to get home. So, even if Marquez can’t improve on the McCarty-Joel Lindpere-Mehdi Ballouchy central triangle, there may be some value in his presence.
After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.
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If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.
There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.
Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.
MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.
Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.
Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.
The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.
Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.
Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.
Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.
Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.
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The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:
“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.
“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.
“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”
With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.
The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:
Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.
The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.
There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.