Starry nights: MLS Team of the Week – Round 30

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Goalkeeper:

  • Houston’s Tally Hall

Rationale, motive and intent: Four saves helped keep his team in the game (and perhaps in the playoff race) until the Dynamo finally got the late breakthrough goal in the driving rain at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Back line:

  • Vanvouver’s Jay DeMerit
  • Portland’s David Horst
  • Colorado’s Hunter Freeman

Rationale, motive and intent: Sometimes I actually feel for Jay DeMerit. Becaues no matter how much Martin Rennie tries to tidy up the defensive organization around BC Place, the Whitecaps’ veteran center back always seems to have so very much to do. He certainly did Saturday in the 0-0 draw with Seattle.

Horst? Yeah, I know about the penalty kick. But it was pretty weak salsa in my book. I’m looking at all the great and gritty that went on defensively around Jeld-Wen in his team’s 1-1 draw with D.C. United.

Freeman was up and down the right side in his team’s 1-1 draw with the Galaxy.

Midfield:

  • Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi
  • Houston’s Ricardo Clark (pictured)
  • Sporting Kansas City’s Julio Cesar

Rationale, motive and intent: Zusi scored twice in the big win, during the weekend’s most significant matchup. His defensive-minded teammate Cesar was always in the right place to keep Chris Rolfe contained and to tamp down those Fire counter-attack opportunities. Clark was full of hustle and bustle in midfield, as usual, but and then led the late offensive charge that ultimately sealed up the night.

Forward:

  • New York’s Thierry Henry
  • Real Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio
  • Real Salt Lake’s Fabian Espindola
  • Columbus’ Jairo Arrieta

Rationale, motive and intent: Yep, it’s the old 3-3-4 formation. What can I say? I’m a journalist, not the second coming of Rinus Michels.

Henry? We’ve stomped the grapes on that French ground.

It’s simply impossible to pick between Saborio and Espindoloa when one is scoring most of the goals (three for “Sabo”) and the other is setting them up (three assists for “Espy”). So, we picked ‘em both.

Arrieta scored a couple of quality goals before the break for a club that absolutely, positively had to have all three points to keep pace in the playoff chase.

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.