San Jose Earthquakes v Portland Timbers

Alan Gordon’s apology and Major League Soccer’s latest run-in with homophobic slurs

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Those who saw the video on NBCSN had no doubt what Alan Gordon said, even if he wasn’t able to confirm his words. After Sunday’s loss in Portland, the San Jose striker was escorted out of the visiting locker room by team officials, retreating to the team bus before being made available for comment.

Timber captain Will Johnson, the target of the six-letter homophobic slur, was also unwilling to comment, but after San Jose released this statement, there’s little doubt Gordon will be hit with a three-match suspension:

“I sincerely apologize for what I said in our game tonight. Although I said it in the heat of the moment, that language has no place in our game. That is not my character, but there is still no excuse for saying what I said. I made a mistake and I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

The last player who committed a similar offense was Seattle Sounders defender Marc Burch, who targeted Will Johnson (then with Real Salt Lake) with the same slur last November. Burch’s three-match ban forced him to miss last year’s Western Conference finals as well as the first game of the 2013 regular season.

Combined with the red card Gordon saw in the 69th minute, San Jose could be without their striker for the next four games: vs. Portland (Apr. 21), at Chivas USA (Apr. 27), vs. Montreal (May 4), vs. Toronto (May 8).

Major League Soccer has gone to great lengths to make its stance on these comments clear. In most of the league’s stadiums, a “Don’t Cross the Line” service video plays before the match, seeking to promote “unity, respect, fair play, equality and acceptance throughout the soccer community.” The video was aired before Sunday’s match at JELD-WEN. With the league intent on showing a strong, consistent front on these issues, there’s no doubt Gordon will be suspended.

We’ve seen this type of language used in other sports, most prominently by Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant two years ago. With the sexuality of retired Major League Soccer players David Testo and Robbie Rogers recently coming to light, the issue of homophobia takes on a special significance within the MLS community.

Expect that significance to be discussed this week as the league works through this latest controversy.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.