Sporting Kansas City re-signs Matt Besler, adds Ike Opara

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Livestrong Sporting Park has been a busy, busy place over the last two week, as the Sporting Kansas City deciders are twisting and tweaking the personnel knobs.

Some of it has been forced upon them, but still …

They had to wave bye-bye to Roger Espinoza, who has all but signed on the dotted line for English Premier League welterweight Wigan Athletic. And they made the tough call to release aging midfield screener Julio Cesar, who was effective in his role although surely limited.

Yesterday came the Benny Feilhaber slobber-knocker of a trade. You can read more about that one here and here. (Both are ProSoccerTalk links.)

Then dropped the important news Wednesday that center back Matt Besler has been re-signed. While Feilhaber is the more evocative (and in some circles flummoxing) figure, adding years onto Besler’s time around Livestrong Sporting Park may one day be seen as the bigger achievement of a hectic December of 2012.

Besler (pictured) was quality goods in 2011, gaining an All-Star berth, albeit with assistance from a curiously high degree of ballot stuffing. But the Best XI spot in 2012 was earned by steady and strong performance on the field, and Jurgen Klinsmann has recently mentioned Besler in the big lump of potential up-and-comers at the center back position.

Plus, he’s a hometown kid, which is always a check mark for fans. So the suits of SKC should feel free to pat themselves on the back for that one.

Now comes word that Sporting Kansas City has added Ike Opara from San Jose for a 2013 second-round draft pick (which will be No. 36 overall, not an area where future MLS stars are typically located.)

Opara has never found the magic dust of stardom that so many predicted when he was taken No. 3 overall in 2010. Injuries had something to do with his life in the slow lane of MLS progress. Still, 22 stars in three seasons at Buck Shaw say something went wrong along the way, something more than injury, in all likelihood.

But he doesn’t need to be a star at Livestrong – just reliable cover for Besler, Aurelien Collin and Lawrence Olum going into a busy year for SKC, one that will include a U.S. Open Cup defense and participation in the CONCACAF Champions League.

So it’s busy times around Livestrong, where the 2012 Eastern Conference champs seem in a big hurry to improve further in 2013.

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.

MLS Follow Live — NYCFC hosts Revs, Minnesota meets Sounders

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Only two matches will feature on the MLS docket Sunday evening, but luckily two of the league’s most exciting teams will take to the pitch.

[ MORE: Toronto tops Fire as East leaders reach 50 points on season ]

First, New York City FC will attempt to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference ladder when they host Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution.

In the night cap, the Seattle Sounders look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches when they welcome newcomers Minnesota United to CenturyLink Field.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Here’s the schedule and kick-off times for Sunday’s two MLS fixtures.

New York City FC vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 10 p.m. ET