Boy, Houston Dynamo could sure use some Calen Carr

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Hey, did you hear that the Houston Dynamo have been struggling? If you read this blog on a regular basis, you may have heard enough. Kyle Bonn offered his thoughts last week, while I gave my own perspective after Houston’s 2-0 loss in New Jersey on Sunday. Fifth place in the East, the team many thought would compete for their conference’s title has struggled, with goals having dried up in the Texas heat.

There are a number of theories as to how Houston can correct their problem. The issues may work themselves out once Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia get right. Some would suggest adding a more attacking presence to a midfield currently occupied by Ricardo Clark and Adam Moffat. Other smight hope for Will Bruin’s return to form, while a true Chicken Little may need all three.

There is another possible solution, one that returned to practice today. Calen Carr, injured in last year’s MLS Cup final, has resumed  training as part of his recovery from knee surgery. While there is no set date for his full return (he only participated in non-contact activity today), Wednesday marked a big step for a player who hasn’t seen action since early December.

Carr, from the league’s web site:

“It’s just nice to come outside at the same time as the guys … I think I definitely need a couple of more weeks to work on my physicality as far as fitness and strength … and then integrate into full training. From there, I hope will be another couple of weeks to get in the groove to be available for selection.”

Carr on his own is not an answer to Houston’s attacking problems, but slid into a team that needs some energy, he may end up being the perfect fit. While Giles Barnes may be the overall more talented player, Carr’s versatility and willingness to do the legwork both in defense and attack provide a nice complement to Bruin. Barnes, who has four goals, two assists in 1352 career regular season minutes, has produced smilar numbers, though he’s been unable to help pull Dominic Kinnear’s team out of their slump.

By the time Carr’s ready to return, Davis and Garcia may be back to pull strength. And once Will Bruin returns from the Gold Cup, Houston will have last year’s MLS Cup finalist XI in place.

That should be enough to claim at least a fifth place finish, and as the Dynamo showed last year, all they need is MLS’s proverbial chip and a chair to have a chance.

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.