MLS, David Beckham and referee criticism … we’re about to see if a double-standard exists

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Let’s talk about the elephant in the MLS room:

(And, yes, we’re going to discuss referees. Again.)

It’s David Beckham’s treatment by the men in the middle. And possibly by the league, where the question of “double-standard” may be getting a big test.

For all the good things we can say about the Galaxy, worthy champs in 2011, ambitious club that pushes others to be better, attendance drivers, etc. … they’ve long had a victimization complex. When things go wrong, it’s too often someone else’s fault. They are the victims.

Only, things frequently do go the Galaxy way. They get the benefit of the doubt as much as anyone else. Obviously they don’t believe so – but who ever does?

Now, regarding Beckham:

He gets away with stunts that most players don’t. Bad tackles last year and early in 2012 that went unpunished or under-punished are perfect examples. And we could talk about the times put his hands on an opponents face or neck with impunity … but, in all honesty, Thierry Henry and Dwayne De Rosario often get away with that mess, too.

That’s the star-double standard at work; we see the same in other sports.

Beckham is also allowed wide latitude in the amount of demonstrative carping allowed. That man will get in a referee’s face more than an eye doctor.

But whatever. Those are tricky, in-the-moment decisions by referees who aren’t stupid; everyone knows Beckham’s value to the league, to sponsors and ticket sellers, etc., and the men in the middle do, as well.

But Wednesday … this is different. We’re about to see, for 100 percent sure, if a double standard is at work. Because Beckham went on the record, cameras rolling, with stinging criticism of referee Jair Maruffo.

Here’s what he said:

Unfortunately, we had someone in control of the game tonight that, every time we’ve had him, he wants to be the star, and that’s what happens when you have a referee who wants to be on ‘SportsCenter.’ That was disappointing.”

I’d say the “wants to be on SportsCenter” is going too far. Then again, I’m not on the Disciplinary Committee.

Let’s hit the WABAC machine. There are plenty of examples of players / managers getting suspended or fined for criticizing referees. Let me draw a circle around a couple I can find.

Here’s what RSL manager Jason Kreis said in 2008 to get suspended:

After three successive weeks of game-changing decisions, it’s time we vent a little bit and put things right. I have a team doing their best to reward fans through a frustrating time and a frustrating few years. I feel the players are doing what they need to, the coaching staff is doing what they do, but being wronged by critical referee decisions is unacceptable.

“It’s about time they start first off trying to be right, and then being fair. It’s too many game-breaking calls, all of them against Real Salt Lake.

“Inconsistency is when it goes one way one week and another the next week. (Decisions) are consistently going against us.”

And here’s what Timbers manager John Spencer said last year to earn a one-game suspension: (The referee in question in Abbey Okulaja, whose fitness is being called into question here.)

My 67-year-old mother-in-law can see it from the club deck. There’s an official standing right there, and you’re asking me why I’m having a go at the fourth official?”

“The referee was getting tired. He couldn’t cover the ground. And I said that to the fourth official, ‘He can’t cover the ground. He’s blowing calls from 50 to 60 yards away.’ Poor, poor performance by the referee.”

“You can’t keep brushing this . . . under the carpet . . . and hoping it’s going to go away.”

You’re on the spot, Major League Soccer. Beckham has put you there. What say you?

Wigan player races off for son’s birth after scoring 2 goals

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WIGAN, England (AP) It was better than a hat trick.

A player for English soccer team Wigan had a night to remember when he scored his second goal before dashing off the field and to the local hospital, where his girlfriend was in labor.

[ MORE: Chelsea advances to UCL Round of 16 after win over Qarabag ]

A picture of Ryan Colclough holding his new-born baby, Harley, while still in his soccer uniform was shared on social media by Wigan chairman David Sharpe.

Colclough said his father, sitting in the stands on Tuesday for Wigan’s 3-0 win over Doncaster in the second division, “gave me the action that the waters had broken,” but he didn’t want to come off until the ball was out of play.

“My head was a little bit battered, but I went and scored, looked at the manager and he said we’ll bring you off now,” Colclough said Wednesday of his 58th-minute goal, which he celebrated by pretending to rock a baby. “I came off and was straight down the tunnel, grabbed my keys and my phone, and went to hospital.”

Colclough had visited the midwife that day, and was told the baby was unlikely to arrive for “another couple of days.”

Lille suspends coach Marcelo Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) French club Lille has provisionally suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa following a string of poor results in the top tier.

[ MORE: Basel stuns Man United late to keep UCL hopes alive ]

The northern side said in a statement that Bielsa has been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club.” Lille did not elaborate.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but has failed to make the club competitive again, with the team second to last after 13 matches.

The 2 Robbies podcast: PL sides in the UCL, Pulis sacking and more

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In today’s Euro Pod Edition, the Robbies breakdown the latest Champions League action. Man United lose at Basel, Chelsea cruise at Qarabag, Spurs impress against Dortmund, Man City continue to win, Liverpool surrender a 3-goal lead against Sevilla. Plus, the guys weigh in on the Oumar Niasse ban for diving and the Tony Pulis sacking.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Europa League preview: Arsenal looks to wrap up Group H and more

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While several teams have already booked their place in the knockout phase, the Europa League reaches its penultimate round on Thursday with many big matches in hand.

[ MORE: Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training ]

Of the two Premier League sides in the competition, only one will advance to the Round of 32, as Arsenal have all but assured themselves of the top spot in Group H. The Gunners can do so tomorrow with a win over Koln or a Red Star Belgrade defeat.

The other end of the spectrum features Everton, who has already been eliminated from reaching the next round after acquiring just one point in its first four matches.

European giants AC Milan can lock up a spot in the knockout phase on Thursday despite the club’s ongoing struggles in Serie A, while fellow Italian side Atalanta can move a step closer to the Round of 32 in Group E along with Lyon.

Here’s the full rundown of Thursday’s UEL matches.

Astana vs. Villareal — 11 a.m. ET
Konyaspor vs. Marseille — 1 p.m. ET
Rosenborg vs. Real Sociedad — 1 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. Vitesse — 1 p.m. ET
Viktoria Plzen vs. Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m. ET
Lokomotiv vs. Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit vs. Vardar — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Vitoria — 1 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao vs. Hertha Berlin — 1 p.m. ET
BATE vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Zorya — 1 p.m. ET
Koln vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET
Nice vs. Zulte Waregem — 1 p.m. ET
Lugano vs. Beer-Sheva — 1 p.m. ET
Ludogorets vs. Istanbul — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga vs. Hoffenheim — 3:05 p.m. ET
AEK vs. Rijeka — 3:05 p.m. ET
AC Milan vs. Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m. ET
Lyon vs. Apollon — 3:05 p.m. ET
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Slavia Praha — 3:05 p.m. ET
Sheriff vs. Zlin — 3:05 p.m. ET
Partizan vs. Young Boys — 3:05 p.m. ET
Skenderbeu vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:05 p.m. ET
Everton vs. Atalanta — 3:05 p.m. ET