About Major League Soccer Players Union’s curious statement on ‘Ball Boy-gate’

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Boy, did the Major League Soccer Players Union get this one wrong. Instead of coming out in defense of Mario De Luna, Eddie Pope and his staff should have just kept quiet and let Sunday’s backlash boil over. Instead, they may have reignited the small controversy. In the process, a lot of MLS fans will be left to wonder what the Union could have possibly been thinking by issuing a release about Ball Boy-gate.

That kind of skepticism (if not outright befuddlement) was the initial reaction after the union’s Wednesday statement became known, one in which the initial sentiment becomes entirely overwhelmed by the inanity of the greater purpose:

Physical contact between a player and a ball boy should never occur. Rather than focusing exclusively on player punishment, however, the league must eliminate ball boy antics, as the Players Union requested last year. There should be no place in our game for off-field personnel to attempt to impact play on the field.

The failure to address this problem substantially increases the risk of unfortunate incidents like we saw last weekend. The league and our teams must do their part to keep our stadiums safe. We urge the league once again to take action and hold teams accountable for the conduct of their ball boys.

[MORE: Another MLS ball boy incident, this time in Portland]

The MLSPU would be wise to amend the statement, deleting everything after “occur,” because while ball boy “antics” may be a relevant discussion at some point, now is not the time. The ball boy did nothing wrong on Sunday, and even if he did, there are various other ways to deal with the problem:

  • De Luna could have found another of the myriad of balls on the sideline, …
  • He could have appealed to the head official (at which time, he would have learned it was not Chivas USA’s ball) …
  • Said head official could have compensated for the antics by adding extra time to the game, or …
  • A 25-year-old adult could have recognized the bigger picture and not shoved a child half his size over a soccer ball.

The MLSPU is essentially an advocacy organization, and as such, they’re going to protect their members’ rights. When those rights (especially collectively bargained ones) are infringed upon, they act, particularly as it concerns issues in and around the workplace.

So one possible, hasty conclusion to be drawn from this is that the Union, as the players’ bargaining unit, feels physical action against recalcitrant field staff is an acceptable response for its members? Or, if we keep in mind the first sentence of the statement, a physical response – even when it’s against a minor doing no wrong – is something that’s entitled to some level of defense?

And you wonder why lawyers have a bad reputation.

This is an inexplicably narrow-minded statement, one that’s does no good but let one member of the organization’s bargaining unit know his rights are being respected. But again, what are those rights, exactly? And how are those rights impinging on others’, including the greater good of the league?

And the greater good of the Players Union. This kind of blanket defense of an obviously out-of-line player is repugnant. Worse: In issuing a public statement about this, Pope and the Union’s leadership have the default effect of speaking on behalf of the greater body at large. This becomes the union, as a multi-hundred-member group, mitigating De Luna’s behavior.

That’s unless others speak up. It will be interesting to see if anybody does. The issue of a defender drawing a one-game suspension might not be enough to motivate any principled stands, but it will be interesting to hear how players respond if asked about their union’s stance.

UCL team news: Big calls for all five Premier League clubs

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Three Premier League giants are in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday and below is a roundup of the latest team news from Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Also, don’t forget Chelsea and Manchester United are both in UCL action on Wednesday as the five PL clubs all aim to remain unbeaten through the opening two weeks of group play.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]   


Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has revealed that left back Benjamin Mendy will have a late fitness test ahead of City’s clash with Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

City will be looking to win their opening two UEFA Champions League group games for the first time in club history after they beat Feyenoord 4-0 away from home in their Group F opener.

Guardiola also revealed that Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan are back in training but neither play is fit enough to play at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.


Tottenham have plenty of absentees as Mauricio Pochettino‘s men are in Cyprus to face APOEL in Group H.

Dele Alli and Jan Vertonghen are both suspended, while Erik Lamela (hip), Mousa Dembele (ankle), Victor Wanyama (knee), Danny Rose (knee), Christian Eriksen (ill) are all out injured.

Pochettino’s men will be hoping to build on their impressive home win against Borussia Dortmund in their group stage opener and Harry Kane will be the main man for Spurs once again as he’s scored six goals in his last four appearances for the north London club.


Manchester United will be without midfielder Marouane Fellaini for their trip to CSKA Moscow in Group A.

Fellaini was injured after a nasty challenge from Shane Long at Southampton in United’s 1-0 win on Saturday and with Paul Pogba also out, Mourinho could turn to either Michael Carrick or Ander Herrera to step in.

The Red Devils boss will face no further action after his sending off at Saints on Saturday and he will be hoping his side can shake off any jet-lag to continue their unbeaten start to the season and make it eight wins from nine.


Liverpool are also in the Russian capital as they play Spartak Moscow in Group E.

Jurgen Klopp is without the suspended Joe Gomez, so Trent Alexander-Arnold is expected to slot in at right back, while the big piece of team news is that Loris Karius will start in goal over Simon Mignolet.

Sadio Mane is also likely to start after he served the final game of his three-match domestic ban during Liverpool’s 3-2 victory at Leicester City on Saturday.


Chelsea have a huge game in Group C as they travel to Atletico Madrid.

Antonio Conte could start captain Gary Cahill on the bench as David Luiz is available after suspension, while Eden Hazard started at Stoke City on Saturday and came through it unscathed.

Quotes from the Italian coach about his future may concern some Chelsea fans though.

Report: Man United eye $209 million Dybala

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Manchester United is ready to pay Juventus another huge transfer fee for a star player.

[ MORE: Conte heading back to Italy?

Paulo Dybala, 23, is ripping it up for the Turin club after his move from Palermo in 2015.

The Argentine playmaker has scored 12 goals in his opening eight games of this season after scoring 42 in his first 94 appearances in all competitions for Juve.

Reports have surfaced across the UK media stating that United are set to battle it out with Barcelona next summer for Dybala and are willing to pay over $209 million for the forward who is capable of playing centrally or out wide.

Dybala has 10 caps for Argentina but is yet to score for La Albiceleste.

Does Jose Mourinho really need another attacking midfielder/secondary forward?

Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba are all currently scrapping for three spots underneath Romelu Lukaku in Mourinho’s attack. Dybala is a class above most of those players with the diminutive attacker perhaps a long-term replacement for Mata who turns 30 in April.

Not only are his set pieces and crosses a deadly weapon (ask Gonzao Higuain at Juve) but consistently scoring close to 20 goals a season will make the biggest clubs in Europe stand up and take notice.

When I watch Dybala a see a more clinical Philippe Coutinho. Is he worth $209 million? Who knows anymore. The transfer market has gone bonkers but if Neymar is worth $265 million, Dybala’s output isn’t much less than the Brazilian forward.

Juve have said they won’t stand in his way if he wants to move on but United will have to pony up the big boy cash to snap up one of the hottest talents on the planet.

Gareth Barry’s historic longevity: Incredible stats, top goals

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Gareth Barry is expected to make Premier League history on Monday.

If Barry, 36, appears (he is expected to start) for West Bromwich Albion in their game against Arsenal (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Emirates Stadium he will make his 633rd appearance in the PL, breaking Ryan Giggs‘ record.

After making his PL debut in the 1997-98 campaign for Aston Villa, Barry has gone on to play for Manchester City, Everton and now West Brom who he signed for in the summer.

In a recent interview the left-footer said he could go on playing until the age of 40 but he only has a contract through the end of this season at the Hawthorns after turning down a new two-year deal at Everton.

The midfielder, a former England international, won an FA Cup and a Premier League title while at Man City and has played as a left back, center back and in central midfield. Steady, composed and dependable, Barry is the kind of seasoned pro who are worth their weight in gold.

In the video above you can watch Barry’s top five goals in the Premier League, while below are some incredible stats from his near 20-year career in England’s top-flight.

  • Most starts in Premier League history: 600
  • Most minutes played: 52,871
  • Most yellow cards: 119
  • Ranked 10th all-time in wins with 261
  • 17 current PL players were not born when Barry made his Premier League debut on May 3, 1998

Trio of USWNT players stay in locker room for national anthem

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USWNT players Megan Rapinoe, Sydney Leroux and Becky Sauerbrunn were among players from both the Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City who did not appear for the national anthem at a NWSL game on Sunday.

Rapinoe was the first USWNT player to kneel during the national anthem as she joined the protests led by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick calling for racial equality and against police brutality.

With several NFL teams on Sunday taking a knee during the anthem and the Pitstburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks staying in the locker room during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, U.S. President Donald Trump has responded angrily to sports teams who decided to kneel during the national anthem.

Here’s more info from Sounder At Heart on SB Nation:

This time Megan Rapinoe is not alone. Several players from both teams joined her, staying in the locker room during the flag and anthem ceremony.

Elli Reed, Megan Rapinoe, Madalyn Schiffel, Lauren Barnes and Diana Matheson from the Reign did not take the field. Former Sounders/Reign player Sydney Leroux was among the FCKC starters who were not out for the ceremonies. Yael Averbuch, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Desiree Scott round out that group. Sauerbrunn is currently the United States captain. Leroux and Rapinoe are both regulars with the USWNT.

With U.S. Soccer bringing in a new bylaw earlier this year which states players must stand for the national anthem, could we see male and female U.S. stars following this option by not going out onto the pitch for the national anthem in upcoming international games?

All eyes will be on USWNT captain Sauerbrunn, plus midfielder Rapinoe and Leroux, during the anthem when Jill Ellis’ side play against South Korea on Oct. 19 and Oct. 22.

The actions of Bruce Arena’s USMNT side will also be heavily scrutinized ahead of their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad & Tobago on Oct. 6 and Oct. 10 respectively.