Manchester City-Borussia Dortmund overshadows Real Madrid – UEFA Champions League Group D preview

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Overloaded with three elite teams, Group D will always give us a match of the day. This week, it’s Germany’s champions visiting England’s, with Borussia Dortmund hoping to send Manchester City to two losses in as many rounds. Both teams will be looking to keep up with Real Madrid, group favorites trying to build on their opening day victory when they visit Ajax.

Manchester City (England) vs. Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
City of Manchester Stadium, 2:45 p.m. Eastern

They weren’t convincing on matchday one, but in hindsight, it’s hard to imagine a (realistic) result that would have dispelled what we learned last season: Borussia Dortmund wasn’t ready for Champions League. As German champions, they finished an embarrassing fourth in their group, not even earning a conciliatory ticket to Europa League. They were so poor, they were sent home.

To show they can be a factor in Champions League, they need to get a result against a team that matters, and although Manchester City also bowed out of last years’ tournament before the knockout rounds, their performance at the Santiago Bernabeu earned them some respect. They didn’t win – in fact, they gave up two leads – but they pushed an unquestioned titan to the limit on their home field. Combined with their Premier League title and a slew of players respected across the globe, Manchester City found an alternative route to their continental bonafides.

Could that work for Dortmund? Merely pushing Manchester City to the bring? It’s not likely. City doesn’t have Mourinho, Ronaldo and nine European titles. Dortmund’s going to have to beat City if they want Wednesday to shed water.

The key to doing so may rest with Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic – Borussia Dortmund’s talented center halves. Both 23 years old, their the pair almost anybody would pick if asked to start a new team with one duo. But they’re mistake-prone, and against a team with the depth and variety of attackers City will dress (Carlos Tévez, Sergio Agüero, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli), the pair may become a weakness. Whereas most opponents would’t be able to generate enough chances (and types of chances) to test the pair, for City, it may only be a matter of time.

That’s not to say City won’t have their own issues in defense. After a slow start to the season (scoring only six times in their first five games), BVB’s attack has caught fire, scoring 10 goals in their last three games. As encouraging, they’ve gotten those goals from seven different players (with none from Robert Lewandowski).

Of course, Dortmund will be facing a better defense than they’ve encounter in the Bundesliga. Vincent Kompany will win votes as the world’s best defender, while the main criticisms of Joleon Lescott are that he’s not Kompany. He’s still a world class defender that would start for most teams, half of a pair capable of silencing even the most powerful attack.

Ultimately, nobody’s expecting Dortmund to win on Wednesday. They’re just expected to show some hint they can play with the best. Fans want them to show their Bundesliga success can be translated into Champions League. Though a win in Manchester would unquestionably do that, it’s not necessary.

More: Group A Group B Group C Group D

Ajax (Netherlands) vs. Real Madrid (Spain)
Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam, 2:45 p.m. Eastern

Manchester City’s loss at the Santiago Bernabeu may become a minor turning point for both teams. For City, it established some continental legitimacy. For Madrid, it was a huge wakeup call.

Back then, Los Merengues were struggling through an identity crisis. Having already lost two matches in league, José Mourinho claimed he didn’t have a team. Cristiano Ronaldo was sad, making vague complaints about his situation at the club. El Real looked on the verge of shuffling the deck.

Then they came back against City. Twice. Fast forward two weeks, and Ronaldo’s posting hat tricks in 5-1 wins over Deportivo La Coruña. Crisis over, or crisis averted? Neither. It was just a phase.

Ajax would have liked that phase to continue. Instead, they get the same team that beat them 3-0 in Amsterdam last year’s group stage.

Actually, this time could be worse. Last year’s win came at the end of group stage, when a 5-0-0 Real Madrid had already clinched first in their group. Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t even make the trip. This year, only one match into the stage, Ajax will likely face Real’s full assault.

Miss Tuesday’s Champions League coverage?

LA Galaxy’s second Dos Santos signing is a season-changer

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Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.

The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.

Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.

Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.

Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).

Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).

Joey Barton’s gambling ban lowered by almost 5 months

Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
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Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.

Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.

Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:

The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.

“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”

Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.

We may see him on the field in August 2018.

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images
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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.

[ MORE: Nainggolan staying at Roma ]

The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.

FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.

Report: USMNT’s Arriola drawing transfer interest abroad, in MLS

AP Photo/LM Otero
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Paul Arriola’s motor was constantly running as the United States men’s national team claimed its sixth Gold Cup title, and it could drive him all the way from Club Tijuana to Europe or a prime spot on an MLS roster.

There’s a snag, though.

[ MORE: Everton wins Europa opener ]

Arriola is reportedly wanted by Real Salt Lake and clubs in both the Netherlands and Portugal, but the LA Galaxy has what Goal.com describes a “dubious homegrown player” claim on Arriola, who participated in a minimal of practices with the Galaxy when he was younger.

As you’ll see below, there isn’t much “homegrown” about it and, to its critics, it is peak MLS monopolized tomfoolery. Here’s how Goal describes it:

“He was already a U.S. youth national team player when he traveled the 120 miles from Chula Vista to take part in a handful of training sessions with the LA Galaxy academy and eventually the Galaxy first team.

“The Galaxy are believed to hold a homegrown player claim on Arriola, and would have the right of first refusal on making Arriola an offer if he comes to MLS. The Galaxy’s current salary-cap situation might not allow them to make a serious bid for Arriola.”

But… here’s how the Galaxy described his choosing to sign for TJ instead of a pro deal from LA in 2013:

“It’s a little disappointing,” Galaxy technical director Jovan Kirovski told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday. “He went through our system, we offered him a contract and he decided to move on and go somewhere else. But that’s going to happen. It’s something that has happened before, and it’s something that will happen again.”

Arriola’s response in the same article? “I thank the Galaxy for giving me a wonderful opportunity to train with their first team and be a part of their first team which really taught me a lot.” That doesn’t read as much like he “went through their system.” He played in at least one U-18 game, debuting in October 2012, did more training with TJ in December 2012, and signed for the Mexican side in May 2013.

Should that qualify him as Homegrown?

https://www.transfermarkt.com/paul-arriola/leistungsdaten/spieler/189876

Did Arriola spent significant time with LA, or is it possible the Galaxy might reap rewards from having an already established youth national teamer to practice when he was a kid? Whether you’re okay with that or not, consider that it encourages clubs to pilfer rights without actually registering or training the player.

Not to mention there is no guarantee that playing in the Netherlands or Portugal will be better for his development than MLS. Benfica or Ajax and potential action in European tournaments? Maybe. NAC Breda or Tondela? Maybe not.

Nevermind the quagmire that is American youth soccer clubs’ not earning money from transfer fees, the Arriola drama seems baseless. We don’t know the Galaxy will hold the player hostage, but they would actually be depriving MLS of a talent, as LA would theoretically get nothing should TJ sell him to a European club.

In any event, check out Arriola’s use chart from Tijuana and you’ll see why he’s valued by Bruce Arena as well as his suitors. He’s a Swiss Army Knife. Here’s hoping Tinseltown doesn’t stop him from a proper next step (assuming he’s ready to leave Liga MX).