Stade Saputo 2

Why Major League Soccer should not play this weekend


There was a time when I partially defended MLS for playing through FIFA dates. Scheduling was just such a bugger for the league. Capping the gushers of financial losses was a priority, and prudent event scheduling was among the safeguards against larger losses still.

But we’re past that now. Or should be.

Major League Soccer has expanded the season window, which means they can and have provided some relief here and there during FIFA weekends, like the one coming up. The United States is one of many national teams in action this weekend and early next week.

So why is there a full schedule of MLS matches this weekend? The inertia on this matter is getting harder to accept.

The next matches for prominent leagues in Europe and Mexico? March 30. But eight Major League Soccer contests kick off Saturday or Sunday, smack between the pair of World Cup qualifier dates.

These MLS contests count! Some team will miss the playoffs in 2013 by a point or two, or miss out on higher seeding by a razor-thin margin. (If one of Houston’s draws at home last year had become a three-point victory, for example, MLS Cup 2012 would have been in Houston, not Los Angeles. And how different that match might have looked, eh?)

It’s just not right for MLS to position itself on one hand as a wanna-be top league around the world – but on the other hand plow stubbornly through competitive matches as clubs do without their valuable difference makers, the men away on international duty. Besides not being fair to ticket buyers and being a drag on quality (which ultimately affects everything), it just doesn’t feel right.

The problem, of course, is that going dark on more weekends means adding more of pesky mid-week matches. (Or expanding the playing window further still. But starting in March and ending in December looks like plenty to most of us, including Houston Dynamo GM Chris Canetti, who told me this weekend he thinks the nine-month window is stretched too far already.)

Too many MLS markets still have trouble selling mid-week matches. It’s changing. It gets a little better every year, and some markets manage pretty well now.

But MLS hasn’t reached the point just yet where enough fans in enough markets will fight through enough icky obstacles to make mid-week matches, or where enough hard-cores will make MLS matches a priority, whether it’s on Saturday night or some less-ideal time frame.

The other issues that once kept MLS from avoiding FIFA windows no longer apply. For instance, stadium availability was once a bugger, as so many teams shared a facility, almost always as second-fiddle or lower. Now all but four clubs exercise ultimate control over stadium dates, and even that foursome has favorable negotiating status.

Here’s where the pressure is building on this thing:

source: AP

As more high-quality talent migrates into MLS, more players will come up missing on these FIFA dates. So we’re not just talking about a few American stars.

L.A. plays Colorado this weekend, but will do so without its two best individuals, Irish international Robbie Keane (pictured) and U.S. center back Omar Gonzalez. Either one of them could have made a case for league MVP in 2012 – and yet the Galaxy is left without them. (OK, OK, I know there aren’t too many fans beyond Southern California crying for the two-time defending champs …)

And important Western Conference match will be fought between FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake. Only Dallas will be missing three internationals, including its starting goalkeeper and 2012 leading scorer; RSL will be without five international call-ups, including the team’s leading scorer, its goalkeeper and its heart and soul, Kyle Beckerman.

Suddenly, a pretty good match feels a little deflated. And that’s what MLS wants?

Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool title talk: “I don’t care”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22:  Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool applauds the fans following their team's 2-1 victory during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on October 22, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp isn’t having any of your title talk.

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or shortlist ]

After Liverpool beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 on Saturday at Anfield and Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United all dropped points this weekend, plenty of people are talking up Liverpool’s chances of winning the Premier League title this season.

With nine games of the season gone, Liverpool sit joint-top with Arsenal and Man City on 20 points with Chelsea and Tottenham just behind them on 19 points.

It is tight at the top but whatever people are saying, Klop isn’t bothered.

“I don’t care. It is normal in football that when you are in a good position people start talking a little more positive. I don’t recognize so much what everyone is saying about us but of course I recognize the mood, I said it already, around LFC it is good. But we are still in October… unfortunately. There is a long way to go,” Klopp said. “Nothing to say about this. Hopefully you can ask these questions through the whole season and everything is good but at the moment I have no answer for it. It is good up until now. Not more but good. Let’s carry on.”

Liverpool’s attack has been mightily impressive this season with the fluid movement of Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino ripping teams apart. Klopp’s side are the highest scorers with 20 goals thus far but the one issues many have about them being genuine title contender is their defensive play. Klopp’s side have kept just one clean sheet in their nine PL games so far this season and they’ve conceded the most goals in the top six.

Klopp’s right, there’s a long way to go. But plenty are also correct to be positive about this Liverpool team.

Challenging for the PL title this season may just be beyond them but securing a top four finish certainly isn’t. Klopp is pushing Liverpool in the right direction. Any of us can see that, even if he doesn’t want to admit it.

Moussa Sissoko handed FA charge over elbow incident

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This was always likely to happen.

On Monday the FA charged Tottenham Hotspur’s Moussa Sissoko with violent conduct after he caught Bournemouth’s midfielder Harry Arter in the face with his elbow during the 0-0 draw at the Vitality stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or shortlist ]

Sissoko, 27, was a second half sub for Mauricio Pochettino‘s side but he will now miss the EFL Cup game against Liverpool and the Premier League games against Leicester City and Arsenal after Tottenham accepted the charge.

In a brief statement on their website the FA said the following about Sissoko’s charge:

Moussa Sissoko has been charged for an alleged act of violent conduct which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video. The Tottenham Hotspur forward was involved in an incident with AFC Bournemouth’s Harry Arter in the 79th minute of the game on Saturday [22 October 2016].

He has until 6pm on Tuesday 25 October to reply. Off the ball incidents which are not seen at the time by the match officials are referred to a panel of three former elite match officials. Each panel member will review the video footage independently of one another to determine whether they consider it a sending-off offence.

For retrospective action to be taken, and an FA charge to follow, the decision of the panel must be unanimous.

Speaking on Monday, Spurs boss Pochettino revealed that the club had accepted charge and must now move on for the next three games without Sissoko.

“We accept that as a club after viewing the video. We accept the charge and now we move forward,” Pochettino said. “After the game it was difficult. When you asked me, it was difficult for me to appreciate the situation on what happened on the action. Then when it was on TV, I need to say that it wasn’t the intention, but the elbow was in the face of [Harry] Arter. It was clear. We accept the charge and now we are set to move forward and he has to miss three games.”

Sissoko’s actions were played down my Arter after the game but the French international who joined on Transfer Deadline Day from Newcastle United will now have to sit out some huge games in the next 10 days.

With the referees not spotting the incident, the TV footage was always going to be used and it was pretty damning as Sissoko drove his elbow into Arter’s face off the ball.

Renato Sanches beats Rashford to win prestigious Golden Boy award

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 10:  Renato Sanches (top) and Portugal players celebrate their team's first goal scored by Eder (obscured) during the UEFA EURO 2016 Final match between Portugal and France at Stade de France on July 10, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Renato Sanches has been named the top player in Europe under the age of 21, picking up the prestigious Golden Boy award from Italian outlet Tuttosport.

Sanches, 19, moved to Bayern Munich from Benfica this summer and shone for Portugal as they won EURO 2016 and he was named the best young player at the tournament.

[ MORE: Conte the new Mourinho?

The central midfielder finished ahead of Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford who was second, while Juventus’ Kinglsey Coman was in third. 

In total there were four Premier League players in the top 10 as Tottenham Hotspur’s Dele Alli and Manchester City’s duo of Leroy Sane and Kelechi Iheanacho also got plenty of votes.

Below are the top 10 players under the age of 21 in Europe, according to the Golden Boy award.

1 – Renato Sanches (19, Bayern Munich)
2 – Marcus Rashford (18, Manchester United)
3 – Kingsley Coman (20, Juventus)
4 – Dele Alli (20, Tottenham)
5 – Ousmane Dembele (19, Borussia Dortmund)
6 – Gianluigi Donnarumma (17, AC Milan)
7 – Leroy Sane (20, Manchester City)
8 – Marco Asensio (20, Real Madrid)
9 – Mahmoud Dahoud (20, Borussia Monchengladbach)
10 – Kelechi Iheanacho (20, Manchester City)

VIDEO: Harsh to book Kei Kamara for twerk goal celebration?

Kei Kamara
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Kei Kamara scored a beauty for the New England Revolution in their 3-0 win over the Montreal Impact on Sunday.

[ MORE: Who wins MLS Cup 2016? ]

Of course, the victory wasn’t enough to see New England through to the 2016 MLS Cup playoffs, but Kamara had a pretty unique way to celebrate his goal.

The former Sporting Kansas City and Columbus Crew star twerked in celebration.

Yep. You read that correctly.

Kamra has seven goals in 21 MLS games for the Revs this season but he has also had some bizarre yellow cards as he was recently booked for changing his shorts on the field of play.

Take a look at the video below to see if he deserved a yellow for a twerk. Personally, I think it’s harsh. What’s wrong with having a bit of fun with a goal celebration?