Sorting out the Seattle Sounders; getting realistic about things

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The Seattle Sounders are in a bad way right now, and not just because they lost to Portland on Sunday. Yes, that one stings like the dickens, a deeper bruise than others along this seven-game beating of a winless streak – but it must be seen in the broader context.

And reclaiming a better place along the continuum of “broader context” starts with getting realistic about things. Ground zero is acknowledging what you are. Right now.

In June of 2012, Seattle is a team perhaps not as deep as everyone thought; the obvious defensive struggles are providing plenty of evidence. The Sounders have allowed almost two goals a game during the seven-game winless spell (13 conceded).

Sounders boss Sigi Schmid laid it out for everyone to hear Sunday evening. If you ask me, this is the only way back, confronting problems, making hard choices … not talking about being unlucky or convincing yourself that you’re a “quality team” that just “made some mistakes” and such. Good teams win games. Period.

Instead, you put it down for everyone, and you hope they start picking it up.

I don’t feel good about these series of games. The team in the locker room has to decide what team is the Seattle Sounders. Are they the Seattle Sounders that played the first seven games of the season or the Sounders that have played the last eight games of the season?

“They are at the crossroads where they have to make a decision which team they are.”

Some of the crossroads effect is finding your place on the map; finding which crossroad, exactly, you’ve arrived upon. For instance, quit looking at what players were. It’s tricky, I know, but what are they right now? We’re past 2009, you know?

source: Getty ImagesSchmid didn’t make the right call in personnel Sunday, going with Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado rather than Patrick Ianni (pictured) at center back, a costly choice.

Either way, the defense needs additional cover right now. Whatever roles injuries, new goalkeepers and offseason personnel choices played in a deteriorating defensive scene – and there are discussion points aplenty there, admittedly – those cows are out of the barn. It’s just time to list your assets and work with what you have.

So Seattle may need a tweaked approach, and that might mean players accepting adjusted roles or even different personnel for an altered system.

And then there’s Fredy Montero, who isn’t producing goals but is producing poor choices, like rushed free kicks at important times and rash moments of petulant behavior. Is there going to be accountability?

There’s plenty of time (the Sounders will reach the halfway pole this week) but frustration is becoming more apparent. Schmid and the team leaders have to get on top of this thing, right now – before that frustration becomes even more toxic.

Report: Villarreal defender Semedo arrested on charges of alleged assault, kidnapping

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For the third time in the past four months, Ruben Semedo has found himself in trouble with the law.

According to a report from Spain, the Villarreal centerback was arrested Tuesday morning at his home on charges of assault, kidnapping and robbery. A complaint filed to the police by a victim alleges that Semedo and two others tied the victim up and locked the victim in a room in Semedo’s home.

Semedo and the others then allegedly took the victim’s keys and went to the victim’s house, where they allegedly stole money and/or other valuable items.

[READ: Wigan shock Man City in FA Cup]

Villarreal has yet to respond to the latest incident off the field, which has marred Semedo’s season and the club’s reputation. Semedo has only played four times this year as he’s currently recovering from a right leg injury, and he’s been sidelined with a variety of injuries since joining from Sporting Lisbon for around $17.3 million last summer.

This is Semedo’s third time in trouble with the law. Last October, after a long night of partying, Semedo allegedly smashed a bottle over someone’s head. In November, in the early hours of the morning following an all-night session at a night club, Semedo pointed a gun at a member of the night club’s security staff after an argument earlier in the evening forced Semedo to leave.

For the latter crime, the local prosecutor is pushing for two years in prison. If the current allegations can be proven true, Semedo could face even more time behind bars.

As of right now, it seems incredibly unlikely that Semedo could feature for Portugal in the World Cup, as he’ll have more important matters to deal with.

Russian authorities fine hotels for World Cup price-gouging

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MOSCOW (AP) Russian authorities in two cities say they have issued hundreds of fines after finding many hotels were illegally hiking prices for the World Cup.

The Rospotrebnadzor consumer regulator says one Moscow hotel raised prices up to 570 percent above what is allowed by a government decree designed to prevent excessive profiteering during the tournament.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The regulator’s Moscow branch says it issued fines totaling 5.95 million rubles ($105,000) to 198 legal entities and 181 people.

In the Ural mountain city of Yekaterinburg, where Mexico and France will each play a group game, the regulator said it fined seven hotels, some of which were charging almost three times the allowed rate for rooms.

Russian authorities have taken a hands-on approach to regulating hotel and travel costs during the tournament to prevent the negative publicity of visiting fans being charged large sums.

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.