MLS Preview: Sporting Kansas City at FC Dallas

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  • SKC has just one win in five games, and just two in eight
  • Dallas has just one win in four league matches
  • Both teams are boosted by the return of important internationals

Two well-regarded teams that are springing leaks meet tonight outside Dallas, both hopeful of using a hot summer night in Texas as a springboard for something better going forward.

Sporting Kansas City still looks like a dangerous team, still blessed with heavy weapons in defense and in the attack. But the results lately just are not commensurate with the level of talent around Sporting Park. SCK has won just once in its last five contests, and just twice in its last eight.

Peter Vermes’ team was even eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup, dropping a match at home to Orlando City and therefore crashing out in its title defense.

FC Dallas hasn’t slipped nearly as much; Schellas Hyndman’s team remains atop the West for now, one point ahead of Portland and Real Salt Lake with one game in hand. But Dallas seems stuck in neutral with just one win in its last four league games, and that was close 1-0 win at home over San Jose.

Sporting KC should get a big boost as two of its most important men return the lineup after a month away. Center back Matt Besler, nudging ever closer to Omar Gonzalez as the first central defender picked for Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team, will presumably regain his spot alongside Aurelien Collin in the middle of SKC’s back line. Defense has not been the issue for SKC, which has allowed just 13 goals this year, tied with New England for best in the league.

And Graham Zusi, who was such an imposing factor in the second half of Tuesday’s win for the United States over Honduras, is also available once again for Vermes. Zusi led MLS in assists last year and finds himself among the leaders once again. Zusi’s absence gave Benny Feilhaber a big chance to assume a bigger role and demonstrate his ongoing importance around Sporting Park – but the results weren’t exactly encouraging.

(MORE: Zusi could make a Landon Donovan return to USMNT tougher)

FC Dallas has additional options too, starting with the availability of striker Kenny Cooper (pictured), who had a major family-related scare last week. Cooper’s father, himself a prominent professional player in Dallas three decades back, suffered a heart attack just before last week’s loss in Portland.

Panamanian international Blas Perez is available, as well, having returned from World Cup qualifier duty.

ADDTIONAL NOTES: With Brazilian midfielder Michel on the service, FC Dallas has become one of the league’s most dangerous teams on set pieces. … Sporting Kansas City has conceded just three goals (of 13). … FCD goalkeeper Raul Fernandez was outstanding in the loss to Portland with a season-high seven saves. … Dallas left back Jair Benitez is suspended. … This is SKC’s first league match since a loss to Montreal on June 1. … Dallas is 7-0-1 at home this year.

WATCH: Camila’s wicked swerving goal for Brazil

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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.

LA Galaxy’s second Dos Santos signing is a season-changer

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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 gambling ban lowered by almost 5 months

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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.

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.

[ MORE: Nainggolan staying at Roma ]

The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.

FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.