MLS at mid-season: Staff discussion on Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year

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With most teams having played somewhere between 16-18 games, we’re more or less at the halfway pole of Major League Soccer’s season.

So myself, Richard Farley and Noah Davis put our soccer brains together (Jenna Pel is in deep study for the upcoming Olympics) to sort out which MLS man is looking good for post-season awards, like Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, etc. …

Steve Davis: As much as I hate to be master of the obvious, I like Chris Wondolowski right now. Obvious choice, I know, but MLS leading scorer and guiding force on the top team does scream “MVP,” eh? Is there a Danny Koevermans lover in the house? Thierry Henry, anyone? Somebody talk me off this ledge of the obvious.

Noah Davis: Hard to argue against Wondo (So good! So smiley!), but I’m taking Henry. I’ve been to a number of Red Bulls games this season – both with and without him playing – and I challenge you to find a player who makes a bigger impact on the game or his team when he’s playing. Plus, he spends time behind the seasons mentoring the younger guys (hey, Connor Lade), which is essential for a squad like the Red Bulls. Injuries slowed his scoring, but assuming he gets healthy (a big if) and returns to form (another big if), I can’t see voting against him at the end of the season.

Steve Davis: Ah, some good, old-fashioned East Coast media bias oozing into this process already! Wonderful. We needed some of that to establish credibility. Ahem.

Richard Farley: Allow the West Coast to even things out, even if I’m obvious in doing so? First, Wondo’s pure numbers are hard to debunk, but if you want a more “value to team” angle, look at the role he plays on that team. My line on San Jose all year has been they’re the best in the league because they have so many ways to beat you. Come minute 60, they can give you a totally different, equally effective look, but the key to that versatility is Wondo.

Steve Davis: Helps explain those amazing comebacks, eh?

Richard Farley: Exactly. Tuesday was a good example. Yallop started the game with Alan Gordon up top. But by the end, he was as much an attacking midfielder as forward, Yallop relying on him to provide the link between him and the midfield as well as get the ball to the speed merchants San Jose has wide. Everybody’s notice how good San Jose is in second halves. Wondo’s versatility’s a huge part of that.

Steve Davis: Hmmm. I’ll have to check Richard’s contract; I don’t remember any bonus clauses attached to Wonder Wondo and awards, but let me check.

So, Wondolowski for Rookie of the Year, too? Or do we have other thoughts on that one?

Noah Davis: Henry for RotY.

Steve Davis: Got ya down, Noah … do you have a second choice in case sanity or a technicality intervenes?source: Getty Images

Noah Davis: Sticking with the theme here, I’m taking Ryan Meara. He’s been a rock behind a defense that is, too often, in shambles. The Red Bulls have given up more goals than any team in the top-half of the league, but it’s hard to fault Meara for too many of them. When the would-be firefighter does give up goals, it’s because his backline hung him out to dry.

Richard Farley: I’m been struggling with this one. I want to give it to Ryan Meara (Noah outlines why), but that save percentage is really low. Whenever I see a stat that contradicts what I’m seeing with my eyes, I always ask what else is going into it. May New York just gives up a lot of quality chances. And they do, but ultimately Meara isn’t stopping as many shots as I think he should, If Nick DeLeon wasn’t putting in the work at D.C., I’d probably talk myself into Meara.

Steve Davis: You know, I keep waiting for the rookie wobble in NY goal, but it just doesn’t happen. I’m pulling for the kid. But…uh…Darren Mattocks in Vancouver. Healthy now. Four goals in eight games. Just sayin’…

(We’re taking a break for finger sandwiches and Oreos … We’ll talk about Coach of the Year and other mid-season honors tomorrow.)

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli banned for 1 year

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Juventus president Andrea Agnelli was banned for one year by the Italian soccer federation on Monday for his role in selling tickets to hardcore “ultra” fans that encouraged scalping.

[ MORE: Mourinho escapes ban after sending off ]

The court also fined Juventus 300,000 euros ($350,000).

The ban comes less than three weeks after Agnelli was elected to chair the 220-member European Club Association.

“Having taken note of today’s decision by the FIGC’s National Tribunal, Juventus preannounces its appeal to the FIGC Court of Appeal in the full conviction of its own good arguments, which have still not found adequate recognition,” the Serie A club said in a statement.

“The club expresses its own satisfaction because today’s sentence, even though it inflicted heavy bans on the president and other people involved, has “after extensive evaluation of the evidentiary material” (page 11 of the sentence) excluded all alleged links with representatives of organized crime.”

Federation prosecutor Giuseppe Pecoraro also said he would appeal for a harsher sentence. Pecoraro requested a 2 1/2-year suspension, a fine and an order to force Juventus to play two home matches behind closed doors.

“I am partially satisfied because we managed to prove everyone’s guilt but the facts are so serious that I think they should be punished more,” Pecoraro told Italian news agency Ansa. “The judgment of another court would be useful, taking into account that the resources coming from the ticket scalping went to a criminal organization, and that is very serious.”

The ban means Agnelli remains Juventus president but cannot represent the club in any official matter governed by the FIGC. He cannot, for example, go into the dressing room during matches or have transfer dealings with players’ agents.

However, the ban has not been extended to UEFA and FIFA – and there is no chance of that happening until all the appeals have been heard. Agnelli’s position as head of the ECA is not at risk for now.

Agnelli allegedly authorized the sale of season passes and other tickets. He has acknowledged meeting with Rocco Dominello, an “ultra” fan linked to the Calabrian `ndrangheta crime mob who has since been sentenced to nearly eight years in prison for scalping.

But Agnelli said the meetings came only with large numbers of other fans at celebratory occasions and that the club never intended to engage in illegal activity.

Juventus security director Alessandro D’Angelo has been banned for 15 months while ticketing director Stefano Merulla and former marketing director Francesco Calvo have also been handed one-year suspensions.

Each of the four has also been fined 20,000 euros ($24,000) for violating sporting integrity and illicit relations with fans.

The 41-year-old Agnelli has led Juventus, the club his family has owned for nearly a century, since 2010. Agnelli has also been a non-voting member of the UEFA executive committee since 2015. He received full voting rights last week at a UEFA meeting in Geneva.

[ MORE: Villareal sacks manager Escriba after one year in charge ]

Dominello’s father, Saverio Dominello, was sentenced to 12 years in prison by a court in Turin in June for his role in the scalping case.

Anti-mafia prosecutors said the `ndrangheta was involved in scalping among Juventus ultra fans for at least 15 years, guaranteeing order in the stadium in exchange for open ticket access.

Juventus has denied any wrongdoing.

Report: NYCFC seeks stadium project near Belmont Park

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New York City FC has found its feet pretty well in MLS, and the club could finally be closing in on a location for its own stadium moving forward.

Newsday Sports is reporting that NYCFC is prepared to bid on land at Belmont Park as the club continues its search to find a permanent stadium for its future.

[ MORE: Which players should be up for MLS MVP honors? ]

The report also states that Belmont isn’t NYCFC’s preferred destination to play matches, with the stadium in Elmont — roughly an 18-mile distance from the club’s current venue, Yankee Stadium.

In the past, Flushing Meadows has been one of many sites discussed as a location for NYCFC to build its own venue, which would make sense given the fact that the land currently houses the New York Mets as well as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

NYCFC has shared Yankee Stadium with MLB franchise, New York Yankees, since the MLS side entered the league in 2015.

A move to Belmont could hinge on what the New York Islanders of the NHL do moving forward as well because the hockey team is reportedly looking at options outside of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where they currently play.

UCL Tuesday preview: Dortmund hosts Real; 3 PL sides in action

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Round two of the UEFA Champions League is back on Tuesday, and while clubs cannot book their place in the Round of 16 just yet it’s just as easy for them to put themselves out of contention.

Three Premier League sides will be action on the afternoon, including Tottenham — who has the chance to start Group H play with six points.

Meanwhile, Liverpool and Manchester City will also take the pitch in Group E and F, respectively.

The day’s biggest clash of the day though comes in Germany as Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid meet in the other Group H fixture. Dortmund will be looking for a positive result after falling to Spurs in their opening day loss in the competition.

[ MORE: Who is the most complete striker in the Premier League? ]

Here’s the full rundown of matches on Tuesday’s UCL docket.

All games kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET

Group E

Spartak Moscow vs. Liverpool
Sevilla vs. Maribor

Group F

Manchester City vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Napoli vs. Feyenoord

Group G

Besiktas vs. Red Bull Leipzig
Monaco vs. Porto

Group H

Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid
APOEL vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints take in Arsenal match

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The New Orleans Saints will be playing a different sort of football on Sunday at historic Wembley Stadium, but the NFL franchise took in Arsenal’s match today during their trip to London.

[ MORE: PL playback — Who is the most complete striker in the PL? ]

Super Bowl-winning quarterback Drew Brees posted a picture on Instagram with several of his Saints teammates taking in the Arsenal-West Brom fixture at the Emirates Stadium six days before the NFL team plays the Miami Dolphins.

The Saints-Dolphins matchup is the second NFL game to take place in England thus far in 2017, after the Jacksonville Jaguars defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 44-7, on Sunday at Wembley.

Headed to the Arsenal game in London. Our first Premier League game! Pumped

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