Wherein I quibble with a New Yorker piece and the New York pro soccer condition

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Results can be painfully predictable when general market publications dip into MLS waters.

Too often the works are penned by some learned and snobby soccer authority – European or South American, take your pick – who will swear their old schoolboy team could run an MLS club off the field.

They frequently approach these pieces with such a jaundiced eye toward MLS, such a narrow understanding of the growth process attached to pro soccer pursuits here, that all credibility has disintegrated by the first 100 words. And we turn the page.

So I dug in when, by the first 100 words, I could see that a short New Yorker piece sprang from the keyboard of someone who appeared to have a comprehensive domestic soccer background.

In a quick blogging fly-by on the Big Apple’s professional soccer scene, writer Reeves Wiedeman attempts to ascertain why the Red Bulls aren’t ringing the bell on record attendance, nor generally kicking grass and dominating the local soccer talk.

Wiedeman seems fairly familiar with the subject – but some of his conclusions are quibble-worthy. And fairly skinny. I know it’s a blog entry and not a 5,000-word composition. Still, show me a simple explanation to a complex matter and I’ll show you an explanation that falls somewhere been plain wrong and terribly incomplete.

Here’s the quibble list:

First, I just hate the hell out of the headline (“Why don’t New Yorkers watch soccer?”). That has nothing to do with the theme to the piece, but it does speak to one of the media clichés I have spent a professional lifetime beating back: that watching or liking soccer is the same as watching or liking Major League Soccer. Because if you tell me that New Yorkers don’t like soccer, I’ll wonder if you have been to New York. Plenty of natives or newcomers there love them some soccer – they just aren’t necessarily enamored (nor even familiar) with the MLS brand.

Speaking of media-driven clichés: the story says “ … many of the teams with high attendance are in cities with large Hispanic populations.”

Yes. Seattle, Portland, Kansas City, Toronto and Philadelphia have a Latino populace – but more than any other U.S. or Canadian cities?

Los Angeles? Yes. But if the point is that percentage of Latino population has a direct correlation with MLS attendance … allow me introduce you to Chivas USA.

Latinos and immigrants driving MLS attendance is a myth. While we’re at it, let’s just drag out the old media saw about how soccer moms and families drive professional soccer attendance in buzzing markets. Because that’s every bit as inaccurate.

How about this one: “In general, larger M.L.S. markets do less well in attracting spectators.”

That’s just not true. Not even generally. Top U.S. cities by population: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia.

If we talk about attendance in MLS, the L.A. Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and Philadelphia Union are every bit as problematic as the sunniest, finest September day. Chicago doesn’t exactly kill it, but the Fire does reasonably well.

Wiedeman is hardly off base on everything. Logistical challenges in New York are a sure impediment, whether real or imagined.

And to ask the question of whether  “ …New York [is] ready for, or deserving of, a second franchise?”  Well, get in line on that one. Plenty of fans in Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, St. Louis, Orlando, San Diego, San Antonio, Las Vegas and lordy knows where else are with you there, sir.

Mostly, I quibble with this:

You cannot discuss the MetroStars / Red Bulls condition without addressing years of fan abuse. Abuse in terms of how the organization took fan interest for granted, how they improperly marketed the team and how they threw garbage at their supporters in terms of the product on the field.

And that has zero to do with chances for success or failure of a second team in New York.

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.