MLS commissioner Don Garber dropped a few newsy tidbits during his annual State of the League conference call with national media on Monday afternoon.
We may circle back and dig more into some of these items. For now, the abridged version of Garber’s significant copy points:
- The league announced its official Best XI during the call. Long story short, Sporting KC dominated.
- Next year’s season will begin on March 2, five days earlier than this year’s first kick. So the 2013 launch (MLS Year 18) will be the earliest yet. While that creates a few more potential weather issues, it assists some off the other MLS endeavors, such as …
- The league will do its best to avoid scheduling 2013 matches during FIFA international dates; that’s long been a major point of contention among clubs and fans. Well, and media, too
- The league will have what Garber called a “light schedule” during the 2013 Gold Cup.
- The 2013 playoffs will follow the same format as this year’s. The only tweak, Garber said, would be in trying to add more rest days between post-season matches. That is a change that MLS absolutely must force through, based on some scenarios that created clear advantages in some of this year’s matchups.
- The league will continue to target a second team in New York as its 20th club, still aiming for a side to inhabit the new ground in Queens. There are “many ownership groups” still interested, according to the commissioner.
- The year 2016 remains a solid target to launch that second New York franchise.
- Regarding the clause in David Beckham’s contract that allows him to purchase an expansion franchise for a below market price of $25 million, Garber said lots of possibilities remain in exploration. New York, Garber reiterated, is not eligible according to the clause.
- The L.A. Galaxy, however, are eligible to be part of those discussions. That’s especially relevant because of AEG’s plans to sell the Galaxy and the Home Depot Center.
- Garber said the league invests about $20 million in youth development and reserve programs, and said MLS will continue to aggressively invest in those programs, although no return on investment has yet been seen.
- Not much new to report on stadium situations in two important markets, Washington, D.C., and New England. Garber did indicate renewed energy with D.C. United’s ongoing hunt for a home.
- Garber stressed, once again, the great need for an MLS presence in the American Southeast. Nothing new, however, in terms of hard news.
(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s Best XI selections)
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said it’s possible that Daniel Sturridge could return to the Liverpool lineup when the Reds host Bordeaux in Europa League action on Thursday.
Sturridge has made just three Premier League appearances this season due to multiple injuries, and has not played since a full 90 minutes against Everton on October 4. He is back in training, however, and was an unused substitute in the 4-1 win over Manchester City on the weekend.
“The best news at the moment is Daniel is getting closer and closer,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference on Wednesday. “He can train seven or eight times in a row which is the longest period since I’ve been here.”
Klopp was faced with a striker injury crisis at the start of his tenure at Anfield, but the options have slowly improved. The German was first forced to use Divock Origi in his first match in charge. He employed Roberto Firmino up front against Manchester City with great results, but said in his interview with the NBC Sports crew after the match that he had to continually remind Firmino to push forward into a striker role before the Brazilian eventually scored.
Christian Benteke was also among the substitutes against City, and now it appears Sturridge could be close to a return. Klopp said he will be a game-time decision tomorrow, but it sounds like he’s unlikely to play a full 90 minutes, whether he starts or not.
“My decision you will see but it is closer and that is very good,” Klopp said.
Aston Villa youngster Jack Grealish has found himself in hot water with the club’s new manager, and it has him on the outside looking in.
According to reports from England, Grealish has been sent to train with the U-21’s after partying back-to-back nights following a 4-0 pummeling at Everton. Recent comments from Villa manager Remi Garde on Grealish’s on-field performances seem to suggest this has been coming for a while, and the partying was simply the last straw.
Garde called him an “unfinished player” in his press conference prior to the Everton match, saying, “Jack for me is a very gifted player with a lot of skill and quality but what I saw in the last few games he played was not the level he should have played. It is as simple as that. He needed more confidence and more structure in his game.”
Following the Everton defeat, which saw Grealish start and play 74 minutes before being removed, Grealish was pictured partying in Manchester, where he was seen inhaling nitrous oxide from balloons with his friends, the same act that got youngsters Raheem Sterling and Saido Berahino in trouble with their clubs in the past year.
The 20-year-old burst onto the scene last season registering some solid minutes down the stretch as Villa maintained its Premier League status. However, this season has been a rough go for Grealish, who has appeared in eight matches (nine starts) for Villa this season, all losses, and has scored just one goal. The five points earned by Aston Vill this season have all come in matches without Grealish making an appearance.
Aldo Van der Laan, the President of Dutch club FC Twente, has stepped down after allegations of shady transfer dealings have surfaced.
This week, a website posted a contract dated 2014 between Van der Laan and Malta-based Doyen Sports Investments that saw a payment of $5.3 million from the company to the club in exchange for between 10 and 50 percent of the transfer rights to seven Twente players.
In a statement on its official website, the club said “Van der Laan has stated that the club is always of paramount importance to him, and that is now in jeopardy. Continuing doubt about him harms FC Twente.” The statement went on to say the Dutch federation (KNVB) is investigating, and that the club will cooperate.
FIFA outlawed third-party ownership of players to keep outside forces from influencing transfer deals. The alleged contract posted is dated before the FIFA ruling went into effect, but the KNVB has outlawed third-party ownership for a while.
According to Dutch reports, five of the seven players listed on the contract have already been sold, including current Southampton midfielder Dusan Tadic. The contract states that the two remaining players, Shadrach Eghan (with the first team) and Kyle Ebecilio (on loan at Championship club Nottingham Forest) must be sold by the end of the season, or the club must pay a $1.48 million fine to Doyen.
Those same reports also suggest Twente is likely to see some form of sanction, with some serious possibilities including relegation, a large points deduction, or a transfer ban as long as two years.
UEFA handed down a two-match closed door ban to Dynamo Kiev after racist incidents during a Champions League match against Chelsea, with a third match suspended for three probationary years.
Anti-discrimation body Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) brought footage to UEFA of four black fans who appeared to be harassed in the stands at the match on October 20. UEFA charged Dynamo for racist behavior, crowd disturbances, and blocked stairways.
Dynamo was also fined €100,000 for the incidents.
As a result, Dynamo will play in an empty stadium on December 9 in a group stage match against Maccabi Tel Aviv, and their second match will either be in the Champions League Round of 16, or in the Europa League Round of 32 should they finish third in their group, which seems more likely.
Last season, Dynamo was punished by UEFA for racist behavior at Europa League matches, ordered to close part of their stadium on two separate occasions.