MLS Preview: New York Red Bulls at Philadelphia Union

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After almost three weeks off from MLS action the New York Red Bulls are back, with a trip to rivals Philadelphia in the I-95 derby.

Mike Petke’s side have been stewing over a 2-1 defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps back on June 1, as they aim to keep the pressure up on Eastern conference leaders, the Montreal Impact.

While the Union haven’t been in MLS action for a while either, with their 3-0 win against the Columbus Crew back on June 5 their last league outing.

So will both teams be rusty and come out slowly in this one? I doubt it.

Since Philadelphia joined MLS, this rivalry has intensified, with the close proximity of both cities leading to sizable away followings at each stadium.

The atmosphere created around these games is always exciting and the ‘Sons of Ben’ supporters group will be looking to give New York a hostile reception at PPL Park.

Plus this year there’s an extra edge, as the Union are challenging New York for a playoff place after their struggles for much of last season.

(MORE: MLS Insider looks at the Sons of Ben)

But how will this game pan out? Well, back on March 30 New York triumphed 2-1 at Red Bull Arena thanks to a late goal from Thierry Henry to give Petke his first win as an MLS coach. Since then Petke is finding his feet as New York went seven games unbeaten before that lass to Vancouver last time out. While the Union have lost just two of their last seven and have a game in hand of New York and are just three points behind them.

A win on Sunday would be huge for John Hackworth’s side, as they aim to make a statement that they should be mentioned in the same breath as Sporting KC, Montreal, Houston and New York as contenders for the Eastern conference crown.

The Union will be pulling out all the stops to get the win, and with forward Jack McInerney leading the MLS goalscoring charts, New York have to lock him down.

As far as injuries and suspensions go, New York will be missing Jamison Olave and Juninho through suspension while Philadelphia have a clean bill of health. Tim Cahill is returning from his triumphant international duty, as Australia qualified for Brazil 2014.

Disappointing defeats in the U.S. Open Cup has left both sides desperate to get back out on the field, so expect a rough and tumble affair, especially in the early knockings.

Here’s a stat for you, both coaches have 100 percent records in this fixture… Hackworth has lost on all three occasions against the Red Bulls, while Petke is 1-for-1 against Philly.

Who can steer their side to victory down by the banks of the Delaware River this evening? Kick off is 5pm ET, the game is live on ESPN.

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

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The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars are over — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.