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Kaka-to-Galaxy more than a rumor. Is he a better option than Lampard?

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Rising from the gossip rags or your rumor aggregator of choice, the Kaká-to-LA Galaxy rumor has gone legit, with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reporting the defending Major League Soccer champions are in pursuit of the former Balon d’Or winner.

The 30-year-old midfielder has worked his way back into the Brazilian national team picture, but at Real Madrid, he hasn’t held down a starting spot since Manuel Pellegrini was replaced by José Mourinho (who brought in Mesüt Özil).

Though time and injuries have detracted from the brilliance that led Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan teams, Kaká would be one of the best players in MLS. Better than an aging David Beckham, Kaká would be a significant upgrade for Bruce Arena’s team.

Speaking to Wahl, one of the potential move’s power brokes spoke with confidence about the possibility of snaring the former Rossoneri standout:

“We’re well aware of Kaká’s interest in MLS, and we in turn have made it very clear to him that he’s aware of our interest in him,” said Tim Leiweke, the president of AEG, which owns the Galaxy. “We have a great relationship with Real Madrid, and just as we worked through a player with them six years ago [Beckham], I’m absolutely convinced we could find the right deal this time, too.”

Wahl does a great job of walking through the obstacles to a deal, factors which include Kaká’s Real Madrid contract, a potential transfer fee, competition from Brazilian clubs, and the player’s potential preference to play in New York. There’s much more on that here (along with more quote from Leiweke regarding the Galaxy and AEG).

There is one other factor that may dissuade a move: Brazil 2014. Kaká is in the mix for a role at the next World Cup, a role that would be risked if he left Europe for MLS. When Beckham and Thierry Henry made their jumps to North America, their national team fates seemed sealed (Beckham subsequently revitalized his). The lack of competition in Robbie Keane and Tim Cahill’s teams meant less risk in their moves.

It’s mostly an issue of perception, but since that perception exists, it may be a factor in Kaká’s decision. If he wants to play at Brazil 2014 and believes staying in a top league is necessary to that end, he may not come of Major League Soccer. He may not be willing to play the 11-month seasons Beckham had to endure to stay in frame for England, serving loan spells at Milan to stay on Fabio Capello’s radar.

Of course, the same issue would apply to Frank Lampard, the Chelsea midfielder and England international who has also been linked with David Beckham’s Galaxy spot. As Wahl points out, the Kaká news is bad for him, with LA only able to bring one of the two midfielders to Home Depot Center.

Leiweke, as told to Wahl:

“… I’m a huge Frank Lampard fan, and I personally have great respect for him. I’ve gotten to spend some time with him, and he’s an unbelievably good guy. Is he the right fit for our team now for what we need?”

“We now have a Time Warner Latino channel that we are very focused on. It was a major reason that we made the deal with them. And as much as we understand the Lakers are the mothership, on the Hispanic channel the Galaxy has a chance of being an equal partner to the Lakers as to the demand, and we get that. But we’d better build a team that ultimately acknowledges the demos and how they’re changing. We’re going to be very careful with that [Designated Player] slot.”

I don’t find a potential Kaká-versus-Lampard discussion that compelling. Apparently, neither does Leiweke, albeit for entirely different reasons.

Kaká’s a much better, younger, and more popular player. There’s a large number of English Premier League fans in this part of the world that might love to see Lamps in the States (and there is no shortage of Chelsea fans in Los Angeles), but this is Kaká we’re talking about. It’s a pretty each choice.

But what say you? If you were in Tim Leiweke’s immaculately shined shoes, who would you pursue? Kaká? Or Frank Lampard?

Electricity restored at Maracana after some late bills paid

This Feb. 2, 2017 shows Maracana stadium with a dry field in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Stadium operators, the Rio state government, and Olympic organizers have fought over $1 million in unpaid electricity bills and management of the venue. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio’s electricity utility has turned the power back on at the famous Maracana stadium after it was shut off for almost a month in a dispute over $1 million in unpaid bills.

The utility on Thursday said power had been restored after the stadium operator paid 1.3 million reals ($430,000) in late bills from November through January. It was shut off on Jan. 26 in the dispute.

The utility said it is still negotiating for 1.8 million reals ($600,000) in unpaid bills from the organizing committee of last year’s Rio Olympics. Rio 2016 organizers still owe millions to companies which helped prepare the Olympics and Paralympics

The stadium has been vandalized over the last month with seats torn out, televisions stolen and the grass field left untended.

VIDEO: FC Dallas youngster Kellyn Acosta unleashes howitzer goal

Arabe Unido goalkeeper Miguel lloyd (1) reaches up to block a shot from FC Dallas as defender Rigoberto Nino (2) and FC Dallas' Kellyn Acosta (23) watch in the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals soccer match, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 in Frisco, Texas (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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With FC Dallas taking on Panamanian club Aribe Unido in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, 21-year-old Kellyn Acosta grabbed a second for the Major League Soccer club 10 minutes past halftime.

It wasn’t just any old goal. It was a STRIKE.

The Texas native trailed the play, and with Roland Lamah shut off in the box by solid man-marking on the ball, Acosta was there to provide an outlet, and he blasted a vicious strike into the top-left corner. The find by Lamah was a smart one with a host of defenders closing in, and his calm demeanor was rewarded as his teammate launched a rocket into the back of the net.

The goal is a fodder for those who believe Acosta, who has played full-back for much of his career, should be a midfielder instead. His positioning and ability to trail the play with deadly accuracy is what makes this goal so special.

Acosta would bag a third in the dying minutes of the game, giving FC Dallas a 3-0 lead to take on the road as they travel to Panama for the second leg on March 1st.

Top Premier League Storylines – Week 26

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Claudio Ranieri, manager of Leicester City speaks with his players during the break in extra-time in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round replay match between Leicester City and Derby City at The King Power Stadium on February 8, 2017 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Well. This weekend’s return of Premier League action was already slated to be an exciting one, but now with today’s enormous bit of breaking news, it has become even more intriguing.

[ WATCH: Previewing every match in Week 26 ]

There’s plenty to discuss at the top of the Premier League table, as Arsenal and Spurs look to heal their European wounds, but it’s what’s at the bottom that has everyone talking today.

How will Leicester City react after the firing of Claudio Ranieri?

Leicester City vs. Liverpool —  3:00 p.m. EDT Monday on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Well. The Foxes had their work cut out for them coming into this match already, but now it has a whole new flavor. Claudio Ranieri has been dismissed just nine months after winning the Premier League title, and sitting just a point off the drop coming into the weekend (and inside the relegation zone coming into the match?) Leicester City will be lead into King Power Stadium by Assistant Manager Craig Shakespeare and First Team Coach Mike Stowell.

Liverpool stopped a five-match winless streak last time out with a quality 2-0 win over Tottenham, but the Reds defense has been leaky all season, and if Leicester is to break its horrid 610-minute goalless streak, it would be here. The Foxes are without a win in five and have not scored a Premier League goal in all of the 2017 calendar year. Can they respond and begin to play for themselves rather than their former manager?

Can Dele Alli and Tottenham bounce back?

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Spurs looked like they had rediscovered their Champions League form with a comprehensive smothering of Championship side Fulham in the FA Cup. Then, they welcomed KAA Gent to Wembley and promptly lost their heads. Dele Alli was sent off for one of the worst challenges you’ll see, and Spurs were vulnerable as a result, crashing out of the Europa League.

Now, Mauricio Pochettino must regroup the squad and get them ready to host Stoke, a team they clobbered 4-0 in the third match of the season. The squad is still healthy, and the loss of European play may actually help them in the long run. Here, however, it provides them with negative form and a short prep time. They need this one badly to solidify a top four place moving forward, can Poch turn it around?

Can Sunderland get a result against surging Everton?

Everton vs. Sunderland — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSports.com

Hull City hosts Burnley. Crystal Palace welcomes Middlesbrough. With those two fellow occupants of the relegation zone playing at home against lower-half sides, the spotlight is squarely on Sunderland. The Black Cats have a tough matchup, on the road at Everton.

The Toffees haven’t lost a Premier League match since falling to Liverpool in mid-December, and have scored 19 goals in the eight matches since that blemish. With that in mind, Sunderland must get some kind of a result to pull off the bottom of the Premier League table. Can they snatch points at Goodison Park?

EFL Cup final could leave Chelsea well out in front

Chelsea vs. Swansea City — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSports.com

Chelsea is already eight points ahead of the pack and looks to be the clear favorite to win the Premier League title. It could get even clearer after this week. Manchester United is off, Manchester City is off, and Arsenal is off. Couple that with Tottenham struggling and Liverpool facing a desperate Leicester City side, and it’s entirely conceivable that a win for Chelsea over Swansea City could leave the Blues as far as 11 points clear at the top of the table, albeit a game ahead of some. That would all but wrap things up, wouldn’t it?

Mario Balotelli handed 2-match ban for abusing referee

FILE- In this Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016 file photo, Nice's forward Mario Balotelli, of Italy, reacts during the Europa League group I soccer match between OGC Nice and FC Salzburg, in Nice stadium, southeastern France. Nice striker Mario Balotelli’s teammate Alassane Pleas has confirmed he heard Bastia supporters racially abusing Balotelli with monkey chants during the league match on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, File)
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After being sent off for referee abuse in last weekend’s Ligue 1 win over FC Lorient, Nice striker Mario Balotelli has been handed a two-match ban.

Balotelli earned his second red card of the season in the 69th minute of a 1-0 win that kept Nice within striking distance of the leaders Monaco. It was his second straight red and third sending-off of the season, having already been dismissed in reverse fixture against Lorient after a pair of yellows in the final three minutes of the game.

After the mercurial Italian’s hot start to the season, he has just one goal in the last two months, the third in a 3-1 win over Guingamp. He has not scored a point-winning goal since bagging both in a 2-1 win over Dijon back on December 18th.

Balotelli’s agent, the well-known Mino Raiola, was so frustrated with his client’s continual dismissal problems that he told French media conglomerate RMC Sport that the solution to Balotelli’s problems is to “cut out his tongue.”

“I have already found the solution: you have to cut out his tongue,” Raiola said bluntly. “To play soccer, there is no need for language! In all seriousness, he knows he made a big mistake and he has no excuse. He knows he needs to improve that. He is very sad for him, for the team.”

The suspension leaves Balotelli on the sidelines for tomorrow’s match against 11th placed Montpellier and then on March 4th at 17th placed Dijon. Nice sits in third, level on points with 2nd placed PSG and three back of leaders Monaco.