Major League Soccer’s quest for better regional standing, and for a long-sought place in the FIFA Club World Cup, begins anew on Tuesday.
Houston Dynamo is first up as CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal play begins, this one in Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium.
The Dynamo, Seattle and LA Galaxy are Major League Soccer’s three survivors in the regional club championship. MLS clubs remain on the hunt for that historic breakthrough, a CCL win that would give MLS a place in the FIFA Club World Cup in December.
Real Salt Lake has come closest to the small FIFA pot of gold, the Utah club’s bid for continental supremacy falling a goal short in 2011 as Mexico’s Montrerrey claimed the prize.
Seattle’s home-and-away series with Tigres (also based in Monterrey, not far south of the Texas border) begins Wednesday. The Galaxy begins its two-leg series with Costa Rica’s Herediano on Thursday. Full tournament details are here.
Dominic Kinnear’s Dynamo should be full of confidence following Sunday’s 2-0 opener in MLS play. Ricardo Clark was in on both goals as the U.S. World Cup 2010 midfielder began a bid to re-establish himself within Jurgen Klinsmann’s current pool.
(MORE: Highlights from Houston’s season opening win)
Of slight concern to Houston perhaps is an additional day of rest for Santos. Los Guerreros last played on Friday, as American international Herculez Gomez scored twice in Santos’ 3-1 win on the road. That left the club 6th of 18 teams in the Liga MX Clausura.
Gomez is second in team scoring in league play with three goals and is tied for team leadership in assists, also with three.
Here is a great match breakdown of tonight’s contest from longtime Houston-based soccer writer and broadcaster Glenn Davis. Davis reckons the Dynamo needs more from Oscar Boniek Garcia and Brad Davis, needs to put pressure on former Mexican national team goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez (who has gone a bit wobbly) and tame Colombian playmaker Darwin Quintero.
There is more on Santos and the club’s current form here.
SEATTLE (AP) Tameka Butt scored in the 67th minute and Australia beat the United States for the first time in the 28-game series, 1-0 in the Tournament of Nations on Thursday night.
The Matildas also snapped the Americans’ four-game winning streak.
Just moments after Butt’s goal got past goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, Carli Lloyd blasted a cross from Megan Rapinoe at Australia goalkeeper Lydia Williams, who made a fantastic save. Lloyd had another chance that sailed just over the net.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
Japan and Brazil played to a 1-1 draw in the tournament’s opening game in the afternoon at CenturyLink Field.
Each of the four teams in the tournament is in the top 10 of the FIFA rankings. The top-ranked United States went into the game with a 25-0-2 record over the seventh-ranked Matildas.
Rapinoe, who plays for the NWSL’s Seattle Reign, had a good chance early on in the game but the Americans were unable to break through. Rapinoe has 12 goals to lead the NWSL in scoring this season.
The Matildas have been on the rise of the past several years, with quarterfinal appearances in both the 2015 World Cup and the Olympics last year.
Following the stop in Seattle, the tournament shifts to San Diego on Sunday before wrapping up in Carson, California, on Aug. 3.
U.S. Soccer is looking to host a Tournament of Nations each summer that there isn’t World Cup or Olympic competition.
The Tournament of Nations got underway earlier Thursday, with Brazil and Japan drawing 1-1 in Seattle.
While some in the crowd may’ve been waiting to see the United States women’s national team and Australia in the second game of the twin bill, they got an absolute treat from Brazil’s Camila.
[ MORE: Galaxy’s season-changing signing ]
The Orlando Pride midfielder is yet to scoop up 10 caps, but blasted this 25-yard goal home with a wicked outside bend.
The aesthetics are terrific.
Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.
The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.
Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.
[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]
Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.
Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.
Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).
Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).
Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.
Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.
[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]
While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.
Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:
The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.
“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”
Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.
We may see him on the field in August 2018.