MLS Week in Review: Round 28

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Two big routs

Don’t be fooled by the ‘close’ score out of Kansas City, where Peter Vermes’ team blew through the potential stop sign of all those missing pieces. Graham Zusi and Matt Besler were just settling into Columbus with the national team as SKC was passing comfortably in and around the visiting Crew from, yes, Columbus. It finished 3-0 but really wasn’t that tight, as SKC had 11 of the game’s first 14 shots and claimed nearly 60 percent of the first hour’s possession.

Portland was similarly in control of matters at Jeld-Wen Field, surviving a couple of early Toronto threats before putting their foot on the game in a meaningful way. Things have gone a bit loose for Caleb Porter’s team over the last few weeks, so a resounding 4-0 win (that did include a couple of late strikes, in fairness to the visitors) will go a long way to restoring some confidence and good feeling.

The weekend’s most shocking result

Not so far back, the Houston Dynamo had this showy streak going, never beaten in their mew home ground, which opened in 2012. Man, that thing is gone, gone. And how.

Sporting KC was the first to wrestle a win out of BBVA earlier this summer. But that was a close one, with the visitors giddy about tiptoeing away 1-0 victors. That’s why Sunday’s 4-1 loss to New York at BBVA Compass Stadium was such a head spinner.

If we weren’t convinced by Houston’s recent 5-0 loss at Montreal (the proud club’s worst defeat to date) that defense has gone all pear shaped for the Orange, maybe we all believe it now. The Dynamo can still make the playoffs, especially as fellow Eastern Conference aspirants New England, Chicago, Philadelphia and even New York still have issues of their own. But Kinnear had better turn up a striker who can reliably find goal, and then restore the back line to usual Dynamo standard. This is certainly not how the club pounded its way into the last two MLS Cup finals.

(MORE: As bad a game as Houston has ever played?)

Vancouver still experimenting

Nigel Reo-Coker, long a midfielder, took another rare turn at right back, while promising young defender Johnny Leveron was pushed ahead into the midfield for Vancouver. Later, one of the league’s top outside backs, Y.P. Lee, was inserted as a midfielder. Sure. Why not? It smacks of more over-thinking from manager Martin Rennie, who has been accused of this before.

On one hand, Vancouver had never won in Texas, so a little tinkering might have seemed reasonable. It would have, that is, if this were Round 8 or even Round 18. But it isn’t. It is Round 28! These things need to be sorted by now. They do, at least, for teams planning on playing past Round 34, which approacheth with speed.

None of it worked, by the way. FC Dallas won, 3-1, collecting three big points and vaulting past Vancouver in the standings.

The missing men

Dallas, Sporting Kansas City and Seattle all survived without substantial lineup pieces, as important types were away for international duty. (I must resist the urge to write once again about MLS plowing through the international fixture windows, but that drum has been banged all to heck, hasn’t it?)

But the Galaxy didn’t survive unharmed. Without Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez and Landon Donovan, the Galaxy DPs three, they fell at home to Colorado’s young buckaroos. Edison Buddle’s stinger was the difference in a 1-0 Rapids win.

Weekend’s worst moment…and a controversial moment

It had to be New England goalkeeper Matt Reis getting ejected just five minutes into his team’s home match against Montreal, leaving the Revs to deal with a 10-vs-11 for almost an entire match. Referee Sorin Stoica was absolutely correct as he pointed to the spot, but considering the early minute and enough doubt about whether Montreal striker Marco Di Vaio was actually going to reach a loose ball before being tripped, a red card was a controversial choice – and potentially a season altering one. It certainly was a bad moment for the Revs, so desperate to get back into the playoffs after an extended absence. They could not overcome it in a 4-2 loss.

Mike Magee is back

The Chicago Fire playoff hopes are on the skids, but Mike Magee’s bid for a Golden Boot prevails anew. The Fire attacker had been stuck on 14 for most of August and then into September. So Magee’s 15th on Saturday in Seattle temporarily put the league leadership solely in his Chicago pocket.

Now, about that league MVP bid that could easily find its way to Magee if the Fire can find its way into the playoffs: a late own goal at CenturyLink Field prevented Chicago from taking a point, as offensively depleted Seattle won, 2-1. So those post-season hopes are, as we mentioned, on the skids.

Best goal

For novelty, technical craft and for gravitas, it was Jair Benitez’s goal from almost 60 yard,the insurance effort in Dallas’ 3-1 triumph over Vancouver in the Texas swelter. Nicely done, sir.


Joint World Cup bidders: Trump hasn’t sparked voter concerns

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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Organizers of the North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup insist FIFA members have not expressed concern about President Donald Trump’s harsh words about foreigners or the U.S. Justice Department prosecuting corrupt soccer officials.

[ MORE: Digging into the latest USMNT roster ]

“Look, this is not geopolitics,” new U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro said Monday during a conference call. “We’re talking about football and what fundamentally at the end of the day, what’s the best interests of football and our footballing community, and we’ve had no backlash. We’re very focused on the merits of our bid.”

A joint bid by the United States, Mexico and Canada was submitted to FIFA on Friday along with a proposal by Morocco. The 207 other members of the international soccer governing body will vote on June 13 in Moscow.

Cordeiro, Mexican Football Federation President Decio de Maria and Canadian Soccer Association President Steven Reed spoke from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where they were meeting with members of the Association of South East Asian Nations, a subset of the Asian Football Confederation.

A solo bid by the U.S. for the 2022 World Cup was favored going into the 2010 vote but lost to Qatar. FIFA then changed the vote rules to give the decision back to the entire membership, which chose hosts prior to 1986, when the choice started being made by the roughly two dozen members of its executive committee.

“We believe that the member associations are going to judge us on the quality of the bids, on the merits of our bid, and that’s it,” Reed said. “We’re very confident about what we’re putting forward, and I don’t think that we’re concerned about politics.”

Sixty games would be played in the U.S. under the bid plan, including all from the quarterfinals on. Three cities were included from Mexico and Canada, and both of those nations would host 10 games.

Holding a tournament in the U.S. would subject many of the documents generated to subpoena by U.S. federal prosecutors, who have secured numerous guilty pleas to corruption charges from soccer officials since 2015 and obtained convictions at trial last year against Juan Angel Napout, the former president of South American soccer’s governing body, and Jose Maria Marin, the former president of Brazil’s soccer federation.

“We haven’t had any of those concerns raised by any of the members that we’ve met so far,” Cordeiro said. “The reforms that FIFA undertook some years ago I think were spot on and we feel very confident that ultimately the right decision will be made.”

Morocco’s bid envisions spending almost $16 billion, including $3 billion to construct nine new stadiums, refurbish five others and build or renovate 130 training grounds.

[ MORE: Brazil to face Austria in final World Cup tune-up match ]

The North American bid proposed venues be selected from among 23 stadiums that exist or already are under construction, including three each in Mexico and Canada. Sixteen of the U.S. stadiums are sites of NFL teams.

“The split of matches that we have proposed to FIFA frankly reflects the resources of the three countries,” Cordeiro said. “We in the United States are blessed with some very substantial resources in terms of stadium infrastructure, of cities and so on, and that reflects the 60 matches that we have on the table. But at the end of the day there is a reason why FIFA have asked for or have encouraged joint bids and we do think that our joint bids taken together provide for a vastly superior bid than our competition.”

AP Sports Writer Rob Harris contributed to this report.

Ailing LA Galaxy could miss as many as 10 players this weekend

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We’re less than a month into the new Major League Soccer season, and one club is already left scrambling to find players for its next match.

[ MORE: A deeper look at the USMNT roster ]

Between injuries, international call ups and a suspension, the LA Galaxy could be without as many as 10 players this weekend.

Ola Kamara, Romain Alessandrini and Giovani dos Santos are among the notable names likely to be absent for Saturday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, but seven more players could be left unavailable for Sigi Schmid’s squad.

Kamara was the latest player to be named to his respective national team, with the striker being called up to Norway on Monday.

Meanwhile, both Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos have earned call ups to Mexico, and Emrah Klimenta has been selected by Montenegro for its next friendlies against Cyprus and Turkey.

Both Dos Santos brothers are battling injuries of their own, so they may not feature for El Tri, but that won’t necessarily help the Galaxy either as they are kept sidelined.

Of the ten players possibly missing the Whitecaps match, five of them (Michael Ciani, Cole, Gio dos Santos, J. dos Santos and Kamara) started in the Galaxy’s last game — a 2-1 loss to New York City FC.

Report: Chelsea, Real Madrid could make sensational swap

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Real Madrid’s interest in a certain Chelsea star has been well-noted for some time, and with the World Cup nearing this summer, Los Blancos may finally be able to get their man.

[ MORE: Brazil to play Austria in final World Cup tune-up ]

Eden Hazard has long been a Madrid target, and with the Belgium international seemingly more and more interested by a move away from Stamford Bridge, the veteran attacker could see himself join Real after the World Cup in Russia.

According to Spanish outlet Diario Gol, Real could secure a move for Hazard this summer, while sending young attacker Marco Asensio to Chelsea.

While hypothetical at this point, the move makes sense for both clubs, particularly from a Blues perspective as they look for young attacking players.

The 22-year-old Asensio has been seeking regular minutes at Madrid, and with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale regularly included in the starting squad, that has been nearly impossible for the Spanish international.

Meanwhile, Real would be gaining another incredibly talented attacking piece to go along with Ronaldo and Bale, although the latter has been linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu for some time.

Real has also been strongly linked with a move for Paris Saint-Germain winger Neymar, who has spent less than a season in France.

It’s a ways away from happening, but a front three of Hazard, Ronaldo and Neymar would certainly make El Clasico even more intriguing than usual, with Real facing off against a Barcelona squad that currently boasts Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho.

Andrija Novakovich: “It’s a good feeling” to earn USMNT call up

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As the U.S. Men’s National Team continues its transition towards qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, a new face has emerged for the Stars and Stripes ahead of its upcoming friendly against Paraguay.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Kekuta Manneh to roster ahead of Paraguay friendly ]

Striker Andrija Novakovich earned his first call up on Sunday when U.S. manager Dave Sarachan named the Telstar player in his squad, which will play the South American side on March 27 in Cary, North Carolina.

The 21-year-old forward has been nothing short of brilliant in his first season with the Dutch second-division club, scoring 18 league goals for Telstar — who sit fourth in the Eerste Divisie.

“It’s a good feeling to get the call-up and hopefully it will be a very good experience,” Novakovich said. “They [the U.S. national team] sent the club and myself an email saying that I was on the preliminary roster and we were just waiting, and then this week I got another email saying I was on the final roster.

“I called my Mum right away and she’s proud, she’s happy.

“I’m just there for the experience — of course I want to play, of course I want to get the opportunity and hopefully that will happen, It’s an honour to be called up and I’m very proud and very happy.”

Novakovich, a Wisconsin native, is currently on loan at Telstar from English Championship side Reading.

The young USMNT player moved to England back in 2014 to join Reading’s academy, despite originally planning on playing for Marquette University following high school.

Despite this being his first senior-team call up, Novakovich is familiar with the U.S. national team setup. Novakovich has previously represented the Under-17, U-18 and U-20 national teams.