What we learned from Saturday’s LA Galaxy-Seattle draw (video)

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Saturday’s 1-1 draw in Los Angeles was a better result for Seattle beyond the obvious (that L.A. was playing at home).

Seattle, in first place and with a game or two in hand over the pursuers, can be OK with holding serve, especially in this one.

The Galaxy had more of the ball but didn’t necessarily have many more clear-cut scoring chances in a match with a helter-skelter pace. So, Sigi Schmid’s team can and will be far more pleased with Saturday’s outcome at the StubHub Center. In fact, about the only thing that went truly wrong for Seattle was Obafemi Martin’s hotheaded reaction when removed late in the match. That’s something Schmid may need to deal with.

A few more things we learned from this one:

  • The Galaxy missed Landon Donovan more than Seattle missed Clint Dempsey

With Seattle’s good defensive work on Robbie Keane, the Galaxy attack was steady and marginally dangerous, but lacking in sharp edges.

That’s Landon Donovan, whose quick wits and quicker feet provide that added bit of spice around the penalty area, that added ability to combine in meaningful ways with Keane, the interplay that can break down the organized defenses.

(Remember late in the week when L.A. coach Bruce Arena said he expected Donovan to play against the Sounders? Yeah … well, Donovan didn’t even dress for Saturday’s contest.)

On the other side, Dempsey’s experience in these big games could possibly have helped the visitors, but Eddie Johnson and Martins have been in big games, too. And since Dempsey has yet to score for the Sounders, it’s hard to make a case that the U.S. international was sorely missed Saturday.

The Sounders can walk away from this one saying “We can get a result in a big one without Clint Dempsey.” Can L.A. say the same right now? Hmmmm…

  • Eddie Johnson is stating his case

If Eddie Johnson (pictured above) wants a big, fat contract – he does, as we know, and Seattle management says the man deserves it – he is sure stating his case the right way.

Credit Sounders teammate Jhon Kennedy Hurtado with a great pick (illegal … but it happens) to help free up Johnson from his marker, U.S. international teammate Omar Gonzalez, on Seattle’s goal. But Johnson did his part, too, heading home with authority against the two-time champs.

In five starts since Dempsey was announced as the Sounders latest and greatest, Johnson has four goals. That’s a rate of production that says “Pay me!” See, if you score like that, you don’t have to actually say it.

  • The Galaxy can still score on free kicks, after all

David Beckham is surely missed in many ways around the StubHub Center, starting in wow-wow factor, which has been significantly diminished around Galaxy Valley this year.

But they also miss his ability to swing that golden right foot on restarts. Landon Donovan can reliably deliver corner kicks, but the U.S. international doesn’t specialize in free kick shooting opportunities the way Beckham did. (Heck, no one does, really.)

So when Galaxy midfielder Juninho hit a beauty at the end of Saturday’s first half, getting the ball up and down over the Sounders wall just so, it was the first goal off a free kick for L.A. this year. (Lamar Neagle might have been just a wee bit late on his jump in the wall, but it was a still a highlight-worthy free kick.)

By the way, seeing as Juninho did hit such a sweet free kick, why did he defer twice in the second half to lesser restart takers? Left-footed free kicks from the right side make sense – but so does going with the best free kick striker of the moment, right?

  • Steve Zakuani dresses for Seattle

Hard to say whether Sigi Schmid’s decision to dress winger Steve Zakuani had anything to do with Dempsey’s absence (due to a hamstring injury picked up in practice this week.) Either way, this was the first time Zakuani has made the game-day roster since April, when he underwent surgery to correct a sports hernia.

Russia regains FIFA Council seat after Mutko’s ouster

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GENEVA (AP) Russia has regained its place on the FIFA Council, six months after Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko was blocked from re-election.

UEFA member federations on Wednesday elected Alexei Sorokin, CEO of the 2018 World Cup organizing committee, by acclamation as one of their delegates to FIFA’s strategy-setting committee.

The seat, which runs through 2021, was vacant since May when Mutko was formally forced to step down.

Mutko’s candidacy was blocked by FIFA’s then governance committee chairman, Miguel Maduro, because of a conflict of interest with his government work. Maduro, who was ousted by FIFA weeks later, said last week that the world soccer body’s leaders put pressure on him to protect Mutko’s position.

Meeting with British lawmakers, Maduro said he was told that his ruling on Mutko’s eligibility could threaten FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s hold on power and “would be a disaster” for the World Cup.

Sorokin became the eighth of the nine European delegates on the 37-member FIFA Council. The ninth was left vacant in July when long-time Spanish soccer leader Angel Maria Villar resigned as a vice president of FIFA and UEFA after being arrested in a corruption investigation.

Villar was detained along with three other soccer officials, including his son, on charges of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Interim replacements for Villar were to be confirmed later Wednesday at a meeting of the UEFA executive committee.

Predicting the FIFPro World XI for 2016-17

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With the World Players’ Union, FIFPro, releasing the 55 players who received the most votes from over 25,000 professional players from across the globe based on their play in 2016-17, plenty of usual suspects have been selected as the top players on the planet.

But who will make the final XI when it is announced in London on Oct. 23?

[ MORE: FIFPro nominees in full ]

With one goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards selected by each professional surveyed, it is quite likely that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will make the team for the 10th straight season. Because, well, they’re Ronaldo and Messi.

Elsewhere there is plenty of debate as to who will make up the defense and midfield and even in goal.

Below I select my XI and I urge you to do the same in the comments section below.

Remember: we can’t always agree on everything but let’s get along…

JPW selects his FIFPro World 11

Goalkeeper: David De Gea (Manchester United)

Defenders: Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich), Marcelo (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

Forward: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Neymar JR (Paris Saint-Germain)

Karim Benzema signs new contract at Real Madrid

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Karim Benzema has signed a new four-year contract at Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Sargent to Werder Bremen

The French striker, 29, has become the latest star name to commit their future to the two-time reigning European champions with Marcelo, Isco and Dani Carvajal all signing new deals over the past week.

Benzema will now remain at Real until June 30, 2021, with the Frenchman scoring 181 goals in 371 appearances as well as winning two La Liga titles, three European Cups and two Copa del Rey trophies during his time in the Spanish capital.

It is believed this new deal has a release clause of over $1.35 billion as Spanish clubs are now becoming increasingly wary of losing their star players a la Neymar leaving Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite his expulsion from the French national team for over 18 months due to his alleged involvement in a blackmail case involving a sex tape and former teammate Mathieu Valbuena, Benzema has been in fine form for Real since Zinedine Zidane took charge in 2015.

Benzema scored 19 goals in 48 games in all competitions last season and 28 in 36 games the season before that as his hold up play and ability to drift out wide or drop deeper crucial to getting the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Co.

That said, Benzema has scored just once in six appearances this season but Real are obviously happy with what he is producing aside from goals.

With question marks over the future of Bale at the Bernabeu, locking down Benzema shows just how important he is to Zidane’s attacking unit as they seek to seal a third-straight UEFA Champions League title.

FIFA open investigation into Chelsea’s youth transfer policy

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Chelsea could be in big trouble.

FIFA have confirmed they’re investigating Chelsea’s youth transfer policy yet again, specifically over the recruitment of foreign players under the age of 18.

What could the punishment be? The worst-case scenario is that Chelsea would be banned from signing any new players across its senior or youth levels but it is believed this situation isn’t as serious as previous investigations involving Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

Via the Telegraph, FIFA had the following to say about the investigation: “As the investigation is ongoing, no further comment is possible for the time being.”

Chelsea released a short statement saying: “Chelsea FC complies with all FIFA Statutes and Regulations when recruiting players.”

It will be the third time in eight years that world soccer’s governing body have looked at Chelsea’s youth policy and back in 2009 they were handed a transfer ban for two transfer windows over the signing of French teenager Gael Kakuta from Lens in 2007 but that was later overturned after an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was successful.

Chelsea were also investigated last year over the signing of Bertrand Traore after images emerged of him playing for the club as a 16-year-old, before international clearance had arrived.

Spanish clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have been found guilty after similar investigations took place with Barca banned from signing players for two transfer windows and the same happening to Atletico who can’t sign any new players until January 2018, while Real Madrid had their ban reduced to one window after an appeal.

In the UK both Liverpool and Manchester City have recently been handed fines and bans for not following rules over recruiting young players domestically.

For foreign players signing for a team in another country there are strict rules in place.

Their family must either be relocating for non soccer reasons to the country where the new club is based, they must live no further than 50km from a national border and the club with which the player wishes to be registered with is within that 50km radius, or if they sign between the age of 16-18 the new club must provide them with housing, access to education and a soccer education.