MLS Preview: LA Galaxy at Colorado Rapids

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  • The Galaxy is 5-0-1 recently in the series
  • The champs are short-handed, however, probably with Robbie Keane and definitely without Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Rogers
  • The Rapids have two, perhaps three Rookie of the Year contenders

The fans around DSG Park may be disappointed by the visitors lack of star power in tonight’s Week 22 matchup in MLS. And this is hardly “best case scenario” stuff for the national television audience.

But what an opportunity for Oscar Pareja’s Colorado Rapids, who will get a depleted version of the two-time league champs when the clubs meet outside Denver tonight.

ESPN cameras will be there for 7 p.m. ET kickoff (the official match preview is here). But Landon Donovan won’t be; the Galaxy attacker has one more match in his onging and highly successful  “Month of international redemption” tour with the United States, so he will miss yet another Galaxy contest.

Nor does it appear the MLS title holders will have Robbie Keane, who remains injured and has even been replaced for next week’s All-Star game in Kansas City against Italy’s Roma. Galaxy manager Bruce Arena has been typically coy about Keane’s availability; it is not out of the question that Keane would play in Colorado, but doesn’t want to risk further injury (not to mention the wear and tear of travel) by playing in what is a essentially just a high profile friendly.

Either way, the Galaxy will surely be without Robbie Rogers, who seems set to get back into full training next week. And, as we know, Omar Gonzalez is with Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team, in Chicago for Sunday’s Gold Cup final.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy remains on the hunt for a third Designated Player. So the team known for stars will have be missing a bunch of them Saturday.

So this is a great chance for the Rapids to overturn the Galaxy’s recent dominance in the series. Arena’s team has won five of the last six meetings; the other match was a draw.  Colorado is unbeaten in five consecutive MLS matches. That includes a productive double hit in Week 21, a win at home over New England and a worthy 1-1 draw at Seattle.

The Rapids have two legitimate Rookie of the Year contenders in versatile midfielder Dillon Powers and speedy striker Deshorn Brown (pictured), who leads the club in goals (5) and assists (4). Some might even suggest that rookie goalkeeper Clint Irwin should get some consideration for the award, as he has filled in admirably for injured starter Matt Pickens.

There is one additional subplot to this one: Pablo Mastroeni, the very face of Colorado’s team for a decade, is in for an emotional return to DSG Park.

The former U.S. international was traded five weeks ago to the Galaxy. He has made five appearances for Arena, including a start in last week’s 2-1 win at home over Vancouver.

The Galaxy has been fairly awful away from the StubHub Center recently, with a 0-6 when you include a U.S. Open Cup setback. Arena’s team has been outscored 16-4 in that time.

Xabi Alonso denies Spanish accusations of tax fraud

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
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The list of players pursued by Spanish authorities crying tax fraud is starting to resemble a pretty good team,

Call it The Longest Yard: La Liga.

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Xabi Alonso is being accused of not paying taxes on his image rights while a player at Real Madrid, joining Radamel Falcao, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luka Modric, and Cristiano Ronaldo as World XI-caliber players who’ve faced legal troubles in Spain.

Jose Mourinho even had to travel to Spain earlier this season to face accusations from a Spanish court. Those found guilty have found punishment other than jail time.

Alonso denies any wrongdoing, according to Sky Sports:

Prosecutors say he defrauded the Spanish state of £1.75m between 2010 and 2012 and called for the same sentence to be applied to Alonso’s financial advisor Ivan Zaldua Azcuenaga and the administrator of consultancy shell company, Ignasi Maestre Casanova.

Iraq hosts friendly tournament after 3-decade FIFA ban

AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda
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BAGHDAD (AP) Iraq is hosting a friendly soccer tournament this week, with Syria and Qatar.

It comes just days after FIFA lifted a three-decade-long ban on Iraq hosting international competitions.

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An Iraq-Qatar match is to start Wednesday evening in the southern city of Basra.

FIFA lifted the ban on Monday for Iraqi cities of Basra, Karbala and Irbil, considered to be the safest in Iraq – but not the capital, Baghdad, which still sees frequent militant attacks.

Iraq’s minister of youth and sports, Abdul-Hussein Abtan, congratulated the Iraqi people following FIFA’s move and said it would change how Iraq is viewed in the region and beyond.

While the ban was in place, Iraq was still able to host friendly games and tournaments.

$280m? Who cares? Salah is the rare “unsellable” player


The gossip reports are out there, with lofty claims that Real Madrid and Barcelona are willing to pay as much as $280 million dollars for Mohamed Salah.

Normally that figure triggers something in my brain that screams, “Sell! Sell! Sell before they realize what they’ve offered!”

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That’s not happening with Mohamed Salah.

This isn’t an inflated fee for a young English player like Ross Barkley or John Stones, nor is it a club throwing a lofty and desperate figure at a very good but supremely overvalued player like Philippe Coutinho. Even Raheem Sterling, who I advocated selling, has proven replaceable.

In the case of Salah, his Golden Boot figure is likely to dwarf any in the Premier League era. He’s at 28, three behind Luis Suarez’s 31. Cristiano Ronaldo has bagged 31 once Alan Shearer and Andy Cole hold the modern record with 34.

Salah needs six to tie Shearer. Here’s Liverpool’s run-in: Crystal Palace (A), Everton (A), Bournemouth (H), West Brom (A), Stoke City (H), Chelsea (A), Brighton and Hove Albion (H).

Five of those teams absolutely hemorrhage goals. Would you bet against Salah?

By the way, Salah has 10 assists, too. Sure Jurgen Klopp deserves credit for buying and deploying the Egyptian wizard, but

When Klopp argued that Liverpool was not a selling club, this is the exact example to follow. Selling Coutinho — again, not trying to poke the bear that is ornery overvaluing fan — is fine in a world where your club has Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah

But selling one of Europe’s leading scorers is almost never okay for a club challenging for a Champions League crown and with the clear caliber of a Premier League title hunter.

I’d argue that for this club, one who has sold Coutinho and Suarez, there is not a fee that meets Salah straight-on.  He’s 25 and living in the air just below Lionel Messi and Neymar.

The Messi comparisons I keep reading are fun but still unbelievably premature by every stretch of the imagination. By the time Messi was Salah’s age he had league seasons of 34, 31, 50, and was en route to a 46-goal mark. He posted 68 combined assists over those four seasons.

If this is somehow an aberration, and Salah cannot find this form ever again, well, that’s bad luck and a risk worth its weight in standard setting.

There is not a replacement player.

There is no fee.

Say it again now.

Dangerous playmaker Silva joins Montreal Impact (video)

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Alejandro Silva’s got a creative mind, and that’s something Montreal will welcome with open arms.

The Uruguayan signed with the Impact this week, joining Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taider as playmakers in Quebec.

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Silva, 28, is a right-sided and forward-playing attacker who can also play right back if necessary.

The Impact lost two of three to start the season, winning this weekend’s 401 Derby versus Toronto FC to put a number in the win column.

Lanus has been a fertile ground for Major League Soccer clubs in recent years, with Lucas Melano (Portland Timbers) and Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United) making the move to North America.

The South American club has also sent Gustavo Gomez to AC Milan and Oscar Benitez to Benfica.