Mexico's Hernandez fights for the ball with Jamaica's Taylor during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Mexico City

Big MLS influence on big CONCACAF matches


How ironic that Major League Soccer had such a big influence in shaping the early race for World Cup spots out of our part of the world.

Because men from the United States’ officially designated tier one league proved most beneficial – but not to the United States.

Two of Jurgen Klinsmann’s starters in yesterday’s 2-1 loss to Honduras were MLS men: center back Omar Gonzalez and attacker Eddie Johnson. (For accuracy’s sake, seven of the 11 did start their careers in MLS.)

Meanwhile, most of the starring roles for Honduras were MLS men, or were so recently. Midfielder Roger Espinoza, probably the best man on the field Wednesday, just left Sporting Kansas City for Wigan Athletic in the English Premier League.

Oscar Boniek Garcia, who helped arrange the home team’s game-winner, is a Houston Dynamo man. Big center back Victor Bernardez may have been Major League Soccer’s top defender last year, playing for San Jose.

But the big MLS influence stretched way beyond San Pedro Sula. In Mexico, a couple of men under MLS contract helped manufacture the region’s real shocker, as Jamaica stunned Mexico in a scoreless draw at typically impenetrable fortress Azteca.

Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (Portland Timbers), defender Jermaine Taylor (pictured Wednesday, plays for Houston Dynamo) and forward Ryan Johnson (Portland) all started for the Reggae Boyz. Well done, Boyz.

In Panama, FC Dallas striker and recently released FCD defender Carlos Rodriguez were in the lineup as the Central Americans drew with Costa Rica, 2-2. On the other side, Real Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio hit one of the goals for the Ticos.

Cisse arrested in sex tape investigation

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Former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse is embroiled in a bizarre investigation into the extortion of a sex tape.

The 34-year-old French striker has been arrested by French police who have confirmed that are investigating attempts to bribe another international footballer.

[ MORE: Klinsmann sends Johnson home ]

Unconfirmed reports from France claim that the individual in question is France and Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, a former teammate of Cisse at both Marseille and with the French national team.

According to Reuters news agency, Cisse was questioned because he was familiar with the people involved and in total four individuals were arrested as it is alleged they plotted to ask for money from Valbuena for the sex tape to not be released. It is unclear if the tape is of Valbeuna and his partner Fanny Lafon, or if other individuals are involved.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT future ]

Cisse won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool and scored 24 goals in 79 games during his three-year stay at Anfield until 2007. He also had spells with Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League, while he is currently out of contract after being released by Ligue 1 side Bastia following nine goals in 41 appearances. Cisse is due to appear on the French version of “Dancing with the Stars” in the coming months.

Further reports from France say that Cisse is expected to be “exonerated” and that the existence of the video is “not proven” at this point.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?