Preview: New York Red Bulls at Sporting Kansas City

Leave a comment
  • Sporting have won 14 of 24 home games all-time vs. NY
  • SKC are unbeaten in five against the Red Bulls (3-0-2)
  • Tim Cahill is out, Graham Zusi a doubt

A huge matchup takes place at Sporting Park, just days after the MLS All-Star Game took place in Kansas City. The game will act as the centerpiece for NBC Breakaway as the two rivals meet Saturday evening at 6:30pm ET.

Sporting sit atop the Eastern Conference but are just two points ahead of New York. However SKC suffered a late defeat last time out to the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo. While New York will be buoyed after being on the right end of a dramatic late win, beating Real Salt Lake 4-3 in the game of the season so far.

Sporting and the Red Bulls have been familiar foes over the last few seasons, with SKC having the run of things. They’re unbeaten in five games against New York and aim to get back to winning ways after being undefeated in six before last weeks loss to Montreal.

New York have lost influential Australian midfielder Tim Cahill to injury, after he was hacked down by Yordany Alvarez. And Graham Zusi could be missing for Sporting after he came off during the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday as a precaution.

Spirits will be flying high this evening as a packed out Sporting Park aims to help the home side stretch their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference. But New York know a win will see them leapfrog Sporting into first-place.

This should be an absolute cracker, and you can watch it live on NBC Sports Network at 6:30pm ET.

What they’re saying

Red Bulls coach Mike Petke: “We know it’s going to be an extremely tough game. Kansas City is a very, very good team. And couple that they’re at home in their own stadium, makes it that much more difficult. We’re looking to go in with the right mentality, the right approach, and treat this like a playoff game, which is kind of is.”

Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes: “Obviously this game takes on a major component as an in conference game. New York is always an excellent team. Great talent within the group and I think they are in very good form, playing very well at the moment. It is definitely going to be a battle, like every other game that we play against them is. Obviously you’ve always got to keep your eye on Henry. They have a lot of weapons within that group that we are going to have to be very attentive to throughout the course of the game.”

Graham Zusi on his injury: “You don’t want to come back too early from things, but who knows? Tomorrow it could be feeling great, or worse, or the same,” he said. “We’re going day to day, getting a lot of treatment on it a couple of times a day. It’s a busy month, that’s for sure. You don’t want to come back too early.”

Prediction

This game has all the makings of a classic MLS encounter. Prime-time on a Saturday evening, with NBC Breakaway featured around it, Sporting KC will look to put on a show against their Eastern Conference rivals. If Cahill and Zusi are both missing, then both midfields will be weaker. If KC can stop Thierry Henry and Fabian Espindola from making those clever runs, I fancy SKC to possibly nick this with their incredible home crowd driving them on. But a draw seems like the most likely outcome. Expect plenty of goals in this one.

Celtic’s Griffiths tears into Rangers chairman after “gulf” comments

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Celtic star Leigh Griffiths took the Old Firm bait and promptly swallowed the fisherman.

If you missed it, Rangers chairman Dave King said Celtic should’ve been even further ahead of their rivals given the setbacks handed to Rangers, who finally climbed back to the Scottish Premiership this season.

Celtic went unbeaten, drawing just four of 38 matches and finished 39 points ahead of Rangers on the table.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

If Celtic won all 38, they could’ve finished 47 points clear of Rangers. So, we guess the gulf could be bigger.

Here’s what Griffiths had to say:

“What was the gulf? 30-odd points. How does he expect that to be bigger? They were touting at the start of last season that they were going to win the league and this and that.

Joey Barton was coming up and saying he was going to be the best player in Scotland – he lasted a few months. In the first [Old Firm] game, they got hammered 5-1 and they got hammered 5-1 at the end of the season. So, the gulf couldn’t be any bigger. This season, they’ll be trying to bridge the gap.

“Ultimately it’s about what we do and if we are at our best nobody in Scotland can live with us.”

It was absurd talk from King, who doesn’t need to amp up one of the world’s best rivalries and also doesn’t have a leg to stand on considering the dominant season from the Bhoys. Wow.

San Jose adds Designated Player from Legia Warsaw

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili is the latest MLS Designated Player, as the Georgian will hit the pitch for San Jose this season provided his visa and ITC go through.

Qazaishvili comes from Legia Warsaw after five seasons with Vitesse in the Eredivisie. The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been capped 24 times, and scored in Georgia’s 2-2 draw with Moldova earlier this month in World Cup qualifying.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Equally adept at right or left wing, Qazaishvili posted a goal and two assists for Legia following his transfer from Vitesse. He scored 28 goals and added 13 assists in 121 matches for the Dutch side.

From SJEarthquakes.com:

“We were looking for a player, a younger, offensive player, that really excites the fans and has the possibility to stay with us for a long period of time. That’s what we found with Vako,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli. “We wanted a player that knows how to take on a defender one-on-one, that sees the goal and that also wants to bring a spark to our game.”

San Jose sits seventh in the Western Conference table, and only two teams — Colorado and DC — have scored fewer goals in MLS. Jahmir Hyka and Cordell Cato have been fine, but San Jose needed a better chance creator.

Qazaishvili, in theory, fits the bill. If he has half the impact of fellow Legia export Nemanja Nikolic, San Jose is cooking with gas.

Transfer rumor roundup: Van Dijk to Chelsea, Ox to Anfield

Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
Leave a comment

More and more players are being linked with Manchester United, but — believe it or not — the Red Devils aren’t the only club seeking talent.

DiMarzio is reporting that Antonio Conte is close to securing the services of Southampton center back Virgil Van Dijk, insisting the Dutch back is Conte’s top choice ahead of Juventus power house Leonardo Bonucci (which isn’t to say there isn’t room for both). The price? An eyebrow-raising $77 million.

[ MORE: Confederations Cup scenarios ]

Meanwhile, Conte is selling talented Bertrand Traore outside the Premier League. A solid season on loan at Ajax upped interest in the 21-year-old striker, and L’Equipe says it’s a $22 million move to Lyon for Traore.

How much do you think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is worth? Liverpool may think his value is as high as $32 million, as The Independent reports that Arsenal is prepared to sell the Southampton Academy product to the attacker-heavy Reds.

Meanwhile, Serge Gnabry‘s wild journey looks to have another stop despite a purchase from Bayern Munich this summer. Gnabry was one of Germany’s heroes at the Olympics and left Arsenal for Werder Bremen last summer. He thrived, and earned a deal to Bayern, but Kicker brings quotes from a Hoffenheim player that are hopeful of a loan for this season.

Messi offers to pay $558,000 to avoid 21-month jail sentence

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
2 Comments

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi has offered to pay an additional fine of 500,000 euros ($558,000) to ensure he avoids a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud that a judge is expected to suspend, a Spanish state prosecutor said Friday.

State prosecutor Isabel Lopez Riera told The Associated Press the fine-for-time deal was presented by Messi’s lawyers to the judge who will rule on whether to suspend Messi’s sentence – as is widely expected. Lopez Riera said she has told the judge that her office is not opposed to the deal.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Lopez Riera said Messi’s lawyers have made a similar offer for the Barcelona player’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi. He is offering to pay 360,000 euros ($402,000) to avoid his 15-month sentence for helping his son cheat on his taxes.

In Spain, prison sentences under 24 months for first-time offenders can be suspended by a judge.

The government attorney representing Spain’s Tax Office in the case will also be able to weigh in on the proposed deal. As state prosecutor, Lopez Riera is impartial in the case as a defender of the public interest.

Last year, a court in Barcelona found Messi and his father each guilty of three counts of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million) from 2007-09. The unpaid taxes were from money made through endorsement deals, not Messi’s salary paid by Barcelona.

Messi was fined 2 million euros and his father 1.5 million euros. Both were originally sentenced to 21 months, but his father’s sentence was later reduced to 15 months.

In the last two weeks, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and former Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho have been accused by a Madrid-based state prosecutor of having defrauded Spain’s Tax Office of millions of euros (dollars) in unpaid taxes.

Both have denied wrongdoing.