Di Canio blasts ref after Altidore goal controversially disallowed


SUNDERLAND — There was a huge turning point in Sunderland’s 3-1 defeat to Arsenal at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

One of those ‘game-changing’ moments that is the difference between grabbing a point or losing.

In the 70th minute U.S. international Jozy Altidore wriggled free of Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna before being hauled back on the edge of the box by Sagna.

But Altidore then carried on and slotted the ball into the goal and ran off to celebrate what he thought was his first Premier League goal for the Black Cats. Not so fast, Jozy.

(MORE: Sunderland 1-3 Arsenal; Ramsey double sends Gunners top)

Referee Martin Atkinson, much to the dismay of the packed Sunderland crowd, had whistled for a foul on the USMNT striker just prior to Altidore putting the ball into the back of the net, which would have made it 2-2. Despite Sunderland having a clear advantage and still in possession of the ball heading towards goal, the referee believed calling the foul was the correct decisions.

The majority of fans in the Stadium of Light strongly disagreed. So did Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio.

“It is a mistake,” Di Canio said. “The referee has the power to wait and finish the dynamics and finish this moment and then come back and make his decision. He made a mistake. You can see Altidore is much more powerful than Sagna. He shield the ball well, it was clear that he was going to win the challenge.”

And postgame as he fastened his Sunderland club tie tightly around his neck, Di Canio was under no illusion that Mr. Atkinson had cost his side at least a point from the game.

“That was a key moment,” Di Canio said. “It was obvious that we wouldn’t have many more chances to score, so that decided the outcome of the game. It can happen, he’s a man. He made a mistake, there is no opinion. I think it is clear.”

(MORE: Arsene Wenger lauds Giroud and Ramsey after Arsenal win)

If Altidore’s goal would have stood the Mackems would have equalized just moments after going 2-1 down. It would have been a really momentum changing moment that could have grabbed Sunderland a point.

Instead they have now lost three from the first four games and sit bottom of the table.

Frustration from that situation boiled over late in the game as Di Canio protested Olivier Giroud’s slow removal from the pitch as he was substituted in injury-time. Sunderland’s fiery Italian manager believed the French striker was time wasting and as he tried to tell the referee to hurry things along, Di Canio was sent away from the dugout after his over-zealous remonstration.

“I invited the referee, I tried to persuade the referee to push him quick out,” Di Canio said. “Because four minutes added time, I’m sure that if you lose two minutes and half I don’t think they’re going to add it on. That was my protest. ‘You have to tell them to go out quick.'”

Referee Atkinson told Di Canio that he would send him to the stand if he continued… this time the Italian pushed his luck too far.

“The problem is he told me, ‘If you keep going with your manner, I send you off. I send you up to the stand,'”, Di Canio said. “My mistake was that I invited him and say that if you want to complete the perfect job today, you have to send me off and then he said ‘go off.'”

But despite his side still searching for their first league win of the season and languishing at the bottom of the Premier League table with one point, Di Canio was surprisingly upbeat.

“In the second half for half hour we dominated,” Di Canio said. “I hope that my team can play how we did in the second half and play this football with this determination, desire, quality. We just have to stay on top. Even in the first half, we have to be honest, Arsenal completely dominated the game. They had many chances, with Arsenal that can happen.”

The early season struggle for Di Canio and Sunderland goes on.

“In the end I am obviously not happy with the result,” Di Canio said. “But I have to look at the best from this game which is a fantastic first half hour in the second half.”

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

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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.