Referee Ricardo Salazar: ineffective in the middle Sunday

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Once among the league’s better officials, Ricardo Salazar has lately acquiesced to the most recurring MLS refereeing fault: refusal to call fouls and stubborn refusal to get on top of things early.

Both teams at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday had ample ammunition for displeasure. And in the end, the fans lose more than either team because they see – stop us if you’ve heard this before – another match where skill counts for less, while cynical fouling is granted tacit approval.

In the wrongheaded effort to “let them play,” here’s what Salazar missed:

Robbie Russell’s brutal, flying body assault on Adam Moffat, which eventually forced the Dynamo holding midfielder from the match. (Russell really should have been cautioned three different times over the 90 minutes.)

Nick DeLeon’s awful tackle on Kofi Sarkodie near the team benches. And D.C. Untied teammate Brandon McDonald got his shots in, too.

(MORE: Analysis of the Houston Dynamo win Sunday)

But if Salazar’s damage to Houston’s larger playoff ambitions was more “death by 1,000 cuts,” it was a giant hammer blow to D.C. United.

United has lots of reason to believe the match could have turned when Dynamo center back Andrew Hainault dragged down midfielder Raphael Augusto  just before the half. There was some defensive cover around, so perhaps red wasn’t warranted; it was debatable whether Houston’s center back denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity, the major criteria for a red card in that situation.

But as Augusto had position in the tussle and was bearing in on goal, it was a booking and a free kick at very least. Unless you’re Salazar, apparently.

Hopefully, we’ve seen the last of him for the 2012 playoffs.

Mendy a doubt for start of Man City’s Premier League season

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High-flying left back Benjamin Mendy‘s Manchester City takeoff has been delayed by a thigh injury.

Pep Guardiola revealed Thursday that Mendy is doubtful for City’s Aug. 12 Premier League opener at Brighton and Hove Albion despite passing a medical to push through a $68 million move from Monaco.

Saying Mendy is “a little bit injured,” Guardiola said to expect an absence of two to three weeks.

[ MORE: LAFC hires Bob Bradley ]

The depth chart behind Mendy is incomplete, though City has added two right backs this offseason in Kyle Walker and Danilo.

The latter would be the front-runner to start in Mendy’s place, as he did in a 3-5-2 as Man City beat Real Madrid 4-1 on Wednesday.

Man City follows its opener at Brighton with a visit from Everton and a trip to Bournemouth.

Roma gives new 4-year deal to Premier League target Nainggolan

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Hard-nosed midfielder Rajda Nainggolan has been linked to Manchester United and Chelsea for some time, but Thursday linked up long-term with his present club.

Nainggolan, 29, signed a new deal with AS Roma through the 2020-21 season, putting the Belgian box-to-box mid at the heart of i Lupi‘s plans to chase down Juventus.

[ MORE: Chatting with De Rossi ]

Nainggolan has been in the last two Serie A Best XIs.

The 29-times capped Belgian has six goals for his national team, and has 255 Serie A appearances between Cagliari and Roma. Nainggolan has 31 goals and 18 assists in those matches, scooping 62 yellows and two send-offs but never being handed straight red.

While it’s a perceived blow for his Premier League suitors, it’s a welcome retention for Roma. He’s arguably the reason Roma was ready to part with Michael Bradley in 2014, and you can see why: He plays right up to the line but knows right where it lies.

Too many fans: Udinese vs. Hannover friendly called off

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ST. VEIT, Austria (AP) Local authorities in southern Austria have called off Sunday’s friendly match between Udinese and Hannover as the estimated number of spectators exceeds the capacity of the stadium.

The city of St. Veit says about 4,000 fans, including 280 potential football hooligans, were expected for the game at the ground of local amateur club FC Alpe Adria, which has a capacity of 2,430.

St. Veit mayor Gerhard Mock says “it’s a shame … but security comes first.”

It’s not immediately clear whether the match between the Italian and German top-flight teams can be moved to a larger venue. Both Udinese and Hannover are having their preseason training camps in the province of Carinthia.

LIVE – Everton kick off Europa League campaign

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Wayne Rooney will play his first competitive game for Everton in 13 years.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores

That storyline will dominate Everton’s return to Europe as they kick off their 2017-18 UEFA Europa League campaign in front of a packed house at Goodison Park on Thursday.

The Toffees welcome Slovakian side MFK Ruzomberok for the first leg of the third qualifying round as they aim to make it back to the group stage for the first time since 2014-15.

Click on the link above to follow not only Everton’s game but all of the Europa League qualifiers going on across Europe this afternoon with the likes of AC Milan, Fenerbache, PSV, Marseille and Athletic Bilbao all in action.

If Ronald Koeman‘s side successfully navigate their way past Ruzomberok then they will be in the play-off round which is the final hurdle before the group stage.