New England keeps playoff hopes alive with 1-0 win over Montreal (video)

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New England suffered a bad injury blow Saturday on what was otherwise a swell afternoon for Jay Heaps’ side, clinging desperately to hopes of bringing post-season soccer back to Gillette Stadium for the first time since 2009.

As of today, Heaps’ bunch is there – although the team’s hold on the fifth and final playoff spot is about as tenuous as it can be.

Still, the Revs do stand above the playoff red line at the moment, fifth for now thanks to a well-deserved 1-0 win at Montreal, a victory that was as gutsy as it was critical. Anything but three points at Stade Saputo would probably have erased the team’s post-season chances for good, especially considering the sudden pileup of injury and suspension.

(MORE: Revolution attacker Saer Sene breaks his ankle)

Jose Goncalves’ second goal this year was the difference, as the Revolution’s most valuable player this year (that’s unofficial – but who is kidding who here?) clinically cleaned up a bit of a mess in the Montreal penalty area. The wily center back was also in command in the back all afternoon, giving Golden Boot leader Marco Di Vaio precious few scoring chances.

Ahead of him, New England’s midfield was mostly in control against an Impact side that lacked much urgency.

Not much at all went right for Marco Schallibaum’s team, in fact; no real connections, little creativity, no looming danger on set pieces and that overall flagging commitment. New England looked like the more desperate team from the opening whistle.

While that’s understandable, somebody had better say something inside the Impact locker room to shake this funk. It’s not entirely implausible that Montreal could miss the playoffs. Next up is a difficult trip to Los Angeles (without center back Matteo Ferrari and captain Davy Arnaud, each of whom collected bookings Saturday.)

After that, the Impact plays at home against Philadelphia in a match that could be for a playoff spot, and then finishes away against Canadian rival Toronto.

Consider that Montreal was a very solid 10-5-5 after 22 rounds. There was talk of a Supporters Shield and chatter about Coach of the Year chances for Schallibaum. Well, none of that is arriving now.

Since then Montreal’s record of 3-6-2 bears all the marks of a sinking ship. Worst of all, Schallibaum’s team has lost three in a row at home, scoring just once in losses to Columbus, Vancouver and New England.

If Montreal does make the playoffs, the club is going the wrong way, getting worse at money time rather than better.

Highlights from Saturday at Stade Saputo:


Xabi Alonso denies Spanish accusations of tax fraud

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
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The list of players pursued by Spanish authorities crying tax fraud is starting to resemble a pretty good team,

Call it The Longest Yard: La Liga.

[ MORE: Alonso, Pedro support Morata ]

Xabi Alonso is being accused of not paying taxes on his image rights while a player at Real Madrid, joining Radamel Falcao, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luka Modric, and Cristiano Ronaldo as World XI-caliber players who’ve faced legal troubles in Spain.

Jose Mourinho even had to travel to Spain earlier this season to face accusations from a Spanish court. Those found guilty have found punishment other than jail time.

Alonso denies any wrongdoing, according to Sky Sports:

Prosecutors say he defrauded the Spanish state of £1.75m between 2010 and 2012 and called for the same sentence to be applied to Alonso’s financial advisor Ivan Zaldua Azcuenaga and the administrator of consultancy shell company, Ignasi Maestre Casanova.

Iraq hosts friendly tournament after 3-decade FIFA ban

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BAGHDAD (AP) Iraq is hosting a friendly soccer tournament this week, with Syria and Qatar.

It comes just days after FIFA lifted a three-decade-long ban on Iraq hosting international competitions.

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An Iraq-Qatar match is to start Wednesday evening in the southern city of Basra.

FIFA lifted the ban on Monday for Iraqi cities of Basra, Karbala and Irbil, considered to be the safest in Iraq – but not the capital, Baghdad, which still sees frequent militant attacks.

Iraq’s minister of youth and sports, Abdul-Hussein Abtan, congratulated the Iraqi people following FIFA’s move and said it would change how Iraq is viewed in the region and beyond.

While the ban was in place, Iraq was still able to host friendly games and tournaments.

$280m? Who cares? Salah is the rare “unsellable” player


The gossip reports are out there, with lofty claims that Real Madrid and Barcelona are willing to pay as much as $280 million dollars for Mohamed Salah.

Normally that figure triggers something in my brain that screams, “Sell! Sell! Sell before they realize what they’ve offered!”

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That’s not happening with Mohamed Salah.

This isn’t an inflated fee for a young English player like Ross Barkley or John Stones, nor is it a club throwing a lofty and desperate figure at a very good but supremely overvalued player like Philippe Coutinho. Even Raheem Sterling, who I advocated selling, has proven replaceable.

In the case of Salah, his Golden Boot figure is likely to dwarf any in the Premier League era. He’s at 28, three behind Luis Suarez’s 31. Cristiano Ronaldo has bagged 31 once Alan Shearer and Andy Cole hold the modern record with 34.

Salah needs six to tie Shearer. Here’s Liverpool’s run-in: Crystal Palace (A), Everton (A), Bournemouth (H), West Brom (A), Stoke City (H), Chelsea (A), Brighton and Hove Albion (H).

Five of those teams absolutely hemorrhage goals. Would you bet against Salah?

By the way, Salah has 10 assists, too. Sure Jurgen Klopp deserves credit for buying and deploying the Egyptian wizard, but

When Klopp argued that Liverpool was not a selling club, this is the exact example to follow. Selling Coutinho — again, not trying to poke the bear that is ornery overvaluing fan — is fine in a world where your club has Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah

But selling one of Europe’s leading scorers is almost never okay for a club challenging for a Champions League crown and with the clear caliber of a Premier League title hunter.

I’d argue that for this club, one who has sold Coutinho and Suarez, there is not a fee that meets Salah straight-on.  He’s 25 and living in the air just below Lionel Messi and Neymar.

The Messi comparisons I keep reading are fun but still unbelievably premature by every stretch of the imagination. By the time Messi was Salah’s age he had league seasons of 34, 31, 50, and was en route to a 46-goal mark. He posted 68 combined assists over those four seasons.

If this is somehow an aberration, and Salah cannot find this form ever again, well, that’s bad luck and a risk worth its weight in standard setting.

There is not a replacement player.

There is no fee.

Say it again now.

Dangerous playmaker Silva joins Montreal Impact (video)

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Alejandro Silva’s got a creative mind, and that’s something Montreal will welcome with open arms.

The Uruguayan signed with the Impact this week, joining Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taider as playmakers in Quebec.

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Silva, 28, is a right-sided and forward-playing attacker who can also play right back if necessary.

The Impact lost two of three to start the season, winning this weekend’s 401 Derby versus Toronto FC to put a number in the win column.

Lanus has been a fertile ground for Major League Soccer clubs in recent years, with Lucas Melano (Portland Timbers) and Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United) making the move to North America.

The South American club has also sent Gustavo Gomez to AC Milan and Oscar Benitez to Benfica.