Holden-Gonzalez

Looking at the calendar, contemplating Stuart Holden’s recovery and World Cup 2014 prospects

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It’s not just the soccer aspect – because most U.S. supporters certainly believed his versatile skill set and midfield drive would make the United States better at World Cup 2014.

And it’s not just the “life isn’t fair” aspect – that the guy just cannot catch a break injury-wise, now on his third major recovery in three years.

It’s also the infallibly positive attitude Holden has maintained through all this. Even after Monday’s awful news, the worst-fears-confirmed announcement that Holden had indeed suffered a torn ACL, there he was, preternaturally hopeful and brave, staring down the awfulness of it all:

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He also Tweeted out the photo you see upper right on this post. Good on the man. His ability to rise above the lameness of fate and his refusal to feel sorry for himself is a lesson for us all.

But here is the grim news as we look at the calendar – along with the less attractive element of my job, the truth telling as best as I can:

ACL recovery is generally a 6-9 month process. It can be done in six months, if all goes well; Fellow U.S. international Omar Gonzalez reminded us of that last year, although he needed another month or so to get back to his most effective version.

But for Holden, given all the previous knee issues, a six-month recovery is asking an awful lot. Nine months might even sound optimistic.

A nine-month recovery would put Holden back on the field in April. Even then, considering how long he would have been away from the game, considering the physical trauma the inner working of his knees and legs have endured, looking at the recent recovery efforts, considering some of the technical aspects of Holden’s game  that clearly still required some polish even after almost a month back on the field …

It’s just difficult to see Holden being ready for the 2014 World Cup.

I know that is not what anybody wants to hear. And in all honesty, I’d love to be wrong on this one. But that’s the way I see it today.

U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann would surely be hesitant to use a roster spot unless Holden has proven his readiness by May of 2013, when the 23 spots will be announced and the pre-tournament camp will commence. It’s not just that Holden must be fit and polished enough for professional soccer by then. He has to be World Cup ready by then. That is a very different level.

I think back to Charlie Davies and his devastating injuries. I wrote well before the 2010 World Cup roster announcement that Davies could not possibly be ready … and the reader contempt poured in. Weeks later, more incredulity rained down on Bob Bradley and the U.S staff for not taking Davies to South Africa.

Then, all the Bradley critics pretty much disappeared quietly when they actually saw a greatly diminished version of Davies play in MLS.

Emotionally, these are apples and oranges, I know. Fairly or unfairly, there was always a feeling in some corners that Davies had brought some of it on himself. No one has ever said such a thing with Holden; Again, it’s just a huge bummer for everyone.

Speaking of bummers, here is something else nobody wants to hear: John O’Brien.

As in, let’s forget for a second about World Cup 2014 and just hope that Holden doesn’t become the next O’Brien, the World Cup 2002 standout for the United States, who was 26 years old during his final injury-spared season for Ajax.

Chronic injuries forced O’Brien out of the game; he was done by 2006 at age 29.

As for Holden, who is 27, let’s just hope it doesn’t go there. He has good years left in the game, at Bolton FC or somewhere. Let’s hope Holden, with all his brave resilience, gets healthy and can enjoy a few good professional seasons.

FIFA disbands racism task force ahead of World Cup in Russia

PRATO, ITALY - APRIL 13: General view during the FIFA Futsal playoff match between Italy and Hungary on April 13, 2016 in Prato, Italy.  (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) FIFA has disbanded its anti-racism task force, declaring the work complete despite ongoing concerns about discriminatory behavior in 2018 World Cup host Russia.

FIFA wrote to members of the task force to say that it has “completely fulfilled its temporary mission” and “is hereby dissolved and no longer in operation.”

“I wish I could say that I am shocked by the decision, but unfortunately I am not,” task force member Osasu Obayiuwana told The Associated Press on Sunday. “The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which need continuous attention.

“I personally think there remained a lot of very serious work for the task force to have done – the 2018 World Cup in Russia being one such matter. But it is evident the FIFA administration takes a different position.”

The task force was established in 2013 by then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter and headed by Jeffrey Webb, a vice president of world soccer’s governing body until he was arrested in 2015 as part of the American investigation into soccer corruption.

Webb, who pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, was replaced exactly a year ago as task force chairman by Congolese federation president Constant Omari, who also sits on FIFA’s ruling council.

“We never had a single meeting under his chairmanship,” Obayiuwana said. “I wrote him, more than once, asking for when a meeting would be held. But I never received a reply from him.”

Obayiuwana, a journalist, broadcaster and qualified lawyer, received the letter from FIFA on Friday announcing the end of the task force.

“The FIFA Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination was set up with your help on a temporary basis to develop recommendations for FIFA,” wrote Gerd Dembowski, FIFA’s diversity and anti-discrimination manager.

“We are therefore delighted to inform you that all of the task force’s recommendations have been implemented and all resulting projects are ongoing.”

FIFA pointed to the introduction of an anti-discrimination monitoring system at matches, the launch of a “Good Practice Guide ,” starting a team of footballing legends and a new diversity award. Fatma Samoura, FIFA’s first female and non-European secretary general, will present the award on Monday at the SoccerEx convention in Manchester.

FIFA also told task force members that its own initiatives “actually exceed the working group’s recommendations” – trumpeting its “Say No to Racism” campaign, women’s leadership conferences and programs in Russia. There are less than nine months until Russia stages the Confederations Cup, the warm-up event for the 2018 World Cup.

The most recent research from the Moscow-based SOVA Center and the UEFA-affiliated FARE Network reported a surge in the number of racist displays by Russian soccer fans, with most cases going unpunished. Researchers logged 92 incidents of discriminatory displays and chants by Russian fans in and around stadiums in the 2014-15 season, against a total of 83 for the previous two seasons put together.

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew 2-0 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): It was mostly the Crew from start to finish, and Ola Kamara’s brace helped ensure Greg Berhalter’s side that the team will remain in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. While the other Kamara — Kei — and his Revolution teammates were largely limited for chances on the evening, the Crew backline did an admirable job to prevent their opposition from testing them. For the Crew, it was the team’s first shutout since the two sides last met on August 20, ironically also a 2-0 victory for Berhalter’s group.

[ MORE: David Villa discusses MLS playoffs, Guardiola and more ]

Three moments that mattered

42′ – Ola smashes one past the Revs on the stroke of halftime — The Crew attack has sputtered a lot in 2016, but Ola Kamara continues to keep the team’s bleak playoff hopes intact.

67′ — Afful’s effort smacks against the post, stays out — The Crew attacked and attacked and attacked some more. Harrison Afful was definitely a bit unlucky that this chance didn’t end up in Brad Knighton’s goal.

84′ — Questionable penalty seals the points — It looked a bit soft to be given, but Kamara makes no mistake with the finish.

 

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Ola Kamara

Goalscorers: Ola Kamara (42′, 84)

Watch: Dario Benedetto scores audacious blast for Boca Juniors

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When there’s little support up the field, what should you do?

Just ask, Dario Benedetto.

The Boca Juniors man broke Sunday’s 4-1 win over Quilmes wide open after a quarter hour when Benedetto smashed a 40-yard attempt into the back of the net, leaving the opposing keeper speechless.

The 26-year-old did just about everything right on the day, as Benedetto finished off the match with a hat-trick before halftime.

Serie A roundup: Torino knocks off Roma, Fiorentina-AC Milan finish scoreless

TURIN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 25:  Andrea Belotti (L) of Torino and Federico Fazio of Roma compete for the ball during the Serie A match between FC Torino and AS Roma at Stadio Olimpico di Torino on September 25, 2016 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)
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Joe Hart and Torino earned a 3-1 win over Roma on Sunday after two second-half finishes from Iago Falqué separated the hosts from the Giallorossi. Andrea Belotti struck for Torino after just eight minutes to give Siniša Mihajlović’s men the early lead. Meanwhile, Francesco Totti attempted to get Roma back in the match after halftime as the veteran striker converted from the penalty spot with 35 minutes remaining. For Totti, the goal marked his 250th in Serie A with Roma.

[ MORE: Schalke misery continues, Leipzig earns road point ]

Fiorentina drew AC Milan, 0-0, as the latter managed just one shot on target throughout the afternoon. Milan keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was forced into five saves on the day, however, the Viola couldn’t find a way to break through the Milan backline.

Goals from Mattia Destro and Ivan Perisic cancelled out as Bologna picked up a point on the road against Inter Milan. Frank de Boer’s Inter currently sit third in Serie A, trailing only Juventus and Napoli, while holds the seventh spot.

Despite going down to nine men in the second half, Genoa managed a 1-1 draw against Pescara on Sunday afternoon. Giovanni Simeone’s opener gave the hosts the advantage just two minutes after the halftime whistle, however, Rey Manaj tapped in from close range in the 85th minute to secure a point for Pescara.

A pair of finishes from Balde Diao Keita and Senad Lulic helped hand Lazio a 2-0 win over Empoli to propel the Biancocelesti to fifth place in Serie A. The defeat leaves Empoli in the relegation zone through six matches.

Gregoire Defrel lifted Sassuolo past Udinese, 1-0, after knocking home the game’s lone finish in the 34th minute. Udinese fought until the very last minute, nearly finding an equalizer in the 90th minute when Felipe’s header struck the cross bar.