Lots of angst, discussion ahead on Jay DeMerit’s All-Star role

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PHILADELPHIA – Something about playing against the English brings out the best in Jay DeMerit.

But as good as Major League Soccer’s commanding center back was at PPL Park Wednesday night, I believe a eyebrows were raised when the important Whitecaps man played all 90 minutes.

In fact, I am absolutely, positively, 100 percent dead set certain that more than eyebrows were raised around Vancouver. I’d say some blood pressure was seriously on the rise, too.

Vancouver meets Real Salt Lake on Friday. That game is in Utah. And yes, I said “Friday.” As in, not even on Saturday, which might have provided DeMerit a chance to grab just a little sliver of rest.

As it is, he would have to cross the country on Thursday and then jump into a game on Friday. This is Real Salt Lake, a team currently sitting second in the West. In fact, it’s second vs. third in the West – the very kind of match that shapes a playoff race.

So, back to Wednesday’s cascade of unfortunate events. When Aurelien Collin needed to leave early in the 3-2 win over Chelsea, MLS coach Ben Olsen was in a pickle regarding his center back situation. Once Carlos Valdes entered, Olsen was out of center backs.

So what does this all mean?

“It means I’m going to get a bunch of calls from Vancouver, all pissed off,” Olsen conceded afterward.

Olsen went on: “The plan was get him out at halftime. He has a game on Friday and unfortunately, we couldn’t do that. Our depth as center back wasn’t great. … He knew it. He looked at me at halftime and said, ‘What are you going to do?’ But I thought he did a great job. And it didn’t really affect the game too much. [Carlos] Valdés came in and did a great job.”

(As he talked in the press conference, I wondered if the calls weren’t already coming from Western Canada. I am sure Olsen doesn’t keep a phone with him on the bench. Still, I got a funny mental picture of Olsen’s cell phone ringing repeatedly during the match, with Vancouver coach Martin Rennie’s name coming up – while Olsen just kind of looks over at the phone, sees who it is and thinking, “Oh, man. I don’t want to talk to that guy.”)

There are no easy answers here. Olsen probably should have brought one more center back – but that’s easy to say now.

The reality is, with 18-man or 19-man rosters, coaches simply cannot provide adequate cover all over the field. They could, I suppose, by bringing 23-24 guys. But then the whole thing breaks down in a ridiculous substitution scramble.

Or, you could bring in all these other guys for cover – but neither the players nor their clubs want to see guys travel across the country, missing training with their teams, just to “provide cover.”

It’s a tough situation – and we have not heard the last of it.

Miguel Almiron knew nothing about MLS, everything about Tata

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Miguel Almiron’s future is going to be a big part of the story for as long as he’s in Atlanta United, but his past is in focus following another cool post in The Players’ Tribune.

It’s a cool read, for sure, to examine Almiron’s rise from “too skinny” kid without a club to one of the top prospects this side of the Atlantic Ocean, but the story of why he came to Atlanta is an argument for the “big name” manager (Tata Martino in this case).

[ MORE: Liverpool fan trouble in Sevilla ]

Before the Paraguayan youngster was the talk of the transfer market, MLS Newcomer of the Year, and the No. 1 jersey sale in the league, he was being recruited to the Georgian expansion outlet.

“I didn’t know much about MLS. I didn’t know where Atlanta was. I didn’t know anything. But Tata was manager, and that was all I needed to know.”

Given that Martino arrived not too long before Almiron, the following Tweet makes the point I’ve been trying to make as well as anyone:

Sevilla manager reportedly told team of cancer diagnosis at half

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When it comes to locker room tales, few compare to this one.

Any big comeback, especially one as high profile as Sevilla’s stunning second half against Liverpool, inspires the question, “What was said in the team room at halftime?!?”

Down 3-0 at halftime and in danger of bowing out of the UEFA Champions League, Sevilla manager Eduardo Berizzo gave his team some very serious news.

[ MORE: Liverpool fan trouble in Sevilla ]

According to Spanish reports relayed by The Telegraph, Berizzo informed his players of his prostate cancer diagnosis.

Sevilla confirmed that Berizzo is battling adenocarcinoma, saying, “Future medical tests will determine a course of treatment. Sevilla FC wants to show maximum support to its manager in these moments and wishes him a prompt recovery.”

It adds extra weight to Ever Banega’s postgame comments:

“We have to go out there with that attitude, for the fans that always back us and for the coach who has turned this around. He is the most important of all of us, he has us on the right path and we are with him to the hilt.”

Our best to Berizzo, and — sorry Reds supporters — it’s pretty cool Sevilla was able to rally after such stunning news.

Liverpool releases statement after Sevilla stadium supporter outcry

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Liverpool has proffered a strong and cautionary statement regarding its supporters’ treatment at Sevilla on Tuesday.

Claims of police punching a woman in the back and throwing her “political” flag at her, a Liverbird with the word “Defiance” on it, are just the tip of the iceberg.

[ REPORT: Palace to get new digs ]

Fans claim that many were either delayed or denied in entry to the stadium, with “police in riot gear not letting you get to your seat” in some cases.

The Reds have released a statement, from LiverpoolFC.com:

Following detailed and troubling accounts given by Liverpool supporters attending the match against Sevilla last night, the club is seeking to establish the facts regarding their treatment at the hands of the host stewards and local police force.
The safety and security of our supporters is our paramount concern and we intend to gather all the relevant information before responding further.

Supporter treatment away from home is deservedly a hot button issue, and especially at Liverpool given the horrible Hillsborough disaster that killed 96 and wounded almost 800 more in 1989.

As for the match, the Reds squandered a 3-0 lead at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, drawing 3-3.

Sounders in firm control after Leg 1

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Seattle Sounders took full control of the Western Conference finals with a resounding 2-0 win over ten-man Houston. The Sounders already had hit first in the 11th minute through Gustav Svensson but the red card to Jalil Anibaba changed the game. Houston had some chances later but fatigue meant the focus and control was off. Former Dynamo striker Will Bruin’s goal may have put the tie to bed.

Three moments that mattered

11′ — Gustav Svensson Goal — The Sounders wanted to set the tone early and they picked up an early goal off a corner kick, as Svensson redirected a header past Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis. The goal changed the complexion of the game to that point, until our next big moment.

28′ — Jalil Anibaba red card — Joevin Jones was a menace to deal with tonight and after getting past Anibaba, the latter pulled Jones down and as it appeared to be denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, Anibaba was given his marching orders. Suddenly, Houston, down a goal and down a man, had a lot more to do to stay in the tie. Nicolas Lodeiro missed the subsequent penalty kick but Will Bruin picked Lodeiro up later.

42′ — Will Bruin goal — The former Dynamo man scored a massive goal against his former club on a great cross from Jones on the left wing. While the tie isn’t over, the Sounders are in firm control and look set to repeat as Western Conference playoffs champions.

Man of the Match: Joevin Jones