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Bundesliga Wrap: Ghost goal the talk of Round 9

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Bayern Munich put four past Mainz, Schalke came back to beat Braunschweig in the final minutes, and Werder Bremen can’t even beat lowly Freiburg at home. Yet the talk of the Bundesliga is Stefan Stefan Kießling’s ghost goal, which ultimately gave Bayer Leverkusen the win over Hoffenheim. Kiessling’s header in the 70th minute flew wide of the post, but went through a hole in the side netting. Referee Felix Brych awarded the goal and Leverkusen went on to win. But with Sven Schipplock scoring for Hoffenheim late in the match, Hoffenheim are understandably aggreived, and are now calling for a replay of the match.

After the match, Brych responded to questions about the goal, stating, “I had a slight doubt but the reaction from the players was clear – nobody was against [the decision]. I checked with Stefan Kießling. But no-one, not even him, said that it wasn’t a goal.” The wisdom of a referee taking a player’s word on whether a goal should be counted is slightly suspect, to say the least. Stefan Kießling has now apologized via a post on his Facebook page: “After seeing the replays on television, I can clearly see that it was not a legitimate goal. During the game, after heading the ball and turning my head, I did not exactly see whether the ball had gone into the goal or not. Somehow, the ball was lying in the goal and I said exactly that to the referee. I’m sorry for all sports fans. Naturally, it’s not nice to win like that. Fairness is important in sport, for us in the club and for me personally.”

Friday

Hoffenheim 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Scandal! Intrigue! See above! But ask yourselves this: had Kiessling’s goal not counted, would Leverkusen not have scored another? Or, having conceded just eight prior to this match, would they have been slack enough to let in an equalizer?

Saturday

Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Hannover
Germany’s top scorers put just one past Hannover, and that’s a Marco Reus penalty in the fourth minute. Dortmund did their best to score more, but Ron-Robert Zieler and the rest of the Hannover defense were up to the challenge. That, or Dortmund were simply conserving their energy for Tuesday’s Champions League match against Arsenal.

Braunschweig 2-3 Schalke
A five goal thriller that should’ve been the talk of Germany, had Kiessling not committed such a heineous mistake. Bottom of the table Braunschweig, with just one win and one draw on the season, and only seven goals to boot, it was rather surprising when the visitors took a 2-1 lead before the hour mark. But five minutes later, Leon Goretzka had added another to Max Meyer’s opener. After that the visitors were determined to score, aware that a win would lift them into the Champions League places. Finally, in injury time, Roman Neustädter played hero and lifted his side to the win.

Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Nurnberg
Vaclav Kadlec scored for the hosts, but Josip Drmic put Nurnberg level with five minutes left to play. The result does little to lift the struggling Nurnberg, who climb a point above Freiburg but still remain in the drop zone, two points behind Hamburg, who’ve yet to play this weekend.

Bayern Munich 4-1 Mainz
Mainz, just four points clear of the relegation zone, must’ve been thrilled when Shawn Parker scored the opener against the mighty Bayern just before the break. But Mainz quickly saw themselves put into what Bayern must feel is their rightful place, with the hosts coming back to score four after the restart. Arjen Robben put in the equalizer with Thomas Müller sticking in the go-ahead goal just two minutes later, but Bayern didn’t stop there. Mario Mandzukic put in another, and Müller grabbed a second after converting a late game penalty. The win keeps Bayern top of the league, with Dortmund and Leverkusen just a point behind.

Werder Bremen 0-0 Freiburg
Freiburg are deep inside the relegation zone and have conceded 18 goals thus far this season, yet eighth-placed Werder Bremen couldn’t get one in. The hosts had 18 shots but, thanks to the hard work of center back pairing Matthias Ginter (who also hit the post for Freiburg) and Fallou Diagne, the visitors managed to take a point away from the Weserstadion.

Hertha Berlin 1-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Hertha Berlin had a grand total of five shots in the entire match. Fortunately for the hosts, one of those shots went in — a header from Adrián Ramos. The hosts then closed ranks and refused to let Gladbach close to the area. Such a performance goes a long way to explaining why newly promoted Hertha are now in fourth, possessing Germany’s last Champions League position. With Schalke, Gladbach and Hannover so close behind, it’s unlikely they’ll finish the season in such a manner, but their start remains impressive.

Still to come

Hamburg vs. Stuttgart
A win here could lift the visitors into the Europa League places, but the points are more crucial for Hamburg, who sit just above the relegation zone. But with just three points from home this season, it seems Stuttgart, who’ve recorded two of their three wins on the road, may have the advantage here.

Augsburg vs. Wolfsburg
Two strugglers, sitting just a point apart, with a mere nine goals each and fairly decent defensive records. Sounds like a thriller.

MLS Preview: Conference leaders meet as Philly head west to Colorado

COMMERCE CITY, COLORADO - APRIL 02:  Dillon Powers #8 of Colorado Rapids controls the ball against the Toronto FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on April 2, 2016 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Rapids defeated Toronto FC 1-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The weekend is nearing, which means another full slate of ten matches across Major League Soccer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

With Sporting KC and D.C. United kicking things off on Friday night, Saturday is jam-packed with eight matches before the league’s youngest clubs NYCFC and Orlando wrap up the action on Sunday.

Colorado Rapids vs. Philadelphia Union — Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET

There’s not a misprint on the table, Colorado and Philadelphia are both at the top of their conferences. After sitting near the bottom of MLS for the past two seasons, Colorado has shocked everyone, currently leading the league in points (27) with the fewest goals conceded (9). On Saturday, the Rapids put their perfect 6-0 home record on the line when they host the Union, who currently lead the East by two points.

New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC — Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET

Coming off of a massive 7-0 win in the Hudson River Derby against NYCFC, the Red Bulls will look to continue trending upwards when they host Toronto FC. Two of the preseason favorites to top the Eastern Conference, both sides are currently tied on points, although the Red Bulls have a game in hand. For Toronto, Sebastian Giovinco will be keen to prove Antonio Conte wrong after being left out of the Italy squad for EURO 2016 after the Italian boss talked down upon MLS.

[ MLS: Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Montreal Impact vs. Los Angeles Galaxy — Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET

Didier Drogba has scored in each of his last three starts, a streak he will look to keep alive against the Los Angeles Galaxy this weekend. While Drogba will be looking to score, Montreal must make sure their defense is in top form as the Galaxy have scored a league-high 25 goals through 11 matches.

Elsewhere around MLS

Sporting KC vs. D.C. United — Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo — Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC vs. Real Salt Lake — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Seattle Sounders — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers — Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas — Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC — Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET

Cantona claims ethnicity played role in Benzema, Ben Arfa France snubs

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 14:  Former Footballer Eric Cantona of France speaks during a press conference at the Shanghai Grand Theatre prior to the  Laureus World Sports Awards  on April 14, 2015 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images for Laureus)
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Eric Cantona has made the headlines again, this time making some bold claims against France national team manager Didier Deschamps.

Cantona, a former Manchester United legend and French international, questioned whether Deschamps excluded Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa from the team due to their North African origins.

[ MORE: Skrtel set to leave Liverpool ]

Speaking to The Guardian, Cantona calls Benzema and Ben Arfa two of France’s best footballers, both of whom will not be playing for the national team this summer.

Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player. But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know.

So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after [French Prime Minister Manuel Valls] said he should not play for France. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.

One thing is for sure – Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open.

Cantona’s view doesn’t hold much merit as Deschamps did not even have the option of selecting Benzema, the country’s active leading goalscorer. The Real Madrid striker is suspended by the federation, embroiled in a blackmail sex-tape scandal involving French teammate Mathieu Valbuena, who was also left off the EURO roster.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine the Champions League final ]

France is an extremely diverse nation with a large North African population, Benzema of Algerian descent and Ben Arfa’s father a former Tunisian international. Both players were born in France and have received prior call-ups under Deschamps, with Cantona’s quite ridiculous comments likely to cause a stir before the EURO.

FA Cup will no longer have quarterfinal replays

HALIFAX, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  The FA Cup is seen prior to the FA Cup First Round match between FC Halifax and Bradford City  on November 9, 2014 in Halifax, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Starting in 2017, the FA Cup will no longer have replays in the quarterfinal round.

The decision was made in an effort to combat the congested English fixture list, which has been a topic of debate for years now.

[ MORE: Lukaku wants out at Everton ]

This season, Manchester United defeated West Ham in a quarterfinal replay before going on to win the competition.

In a statement released by the FA, these changes aim to add drama to the matches while eliminating an extra matchday needed for replays.

The revamped competition will see eight clubs battle it out over one weekend with each tie to be played to a finish on the day, adding to the drama and impact the competition has enjoyed in recent years.

Other new initiatives will be explored to ensure The FA Cup retains its status and appeal. These plans also form part of The FA’s commitment to help ease English football’s congested fixture schedule.

There will still be replays in the earlier rounds of the tournament, which allows lower level clubs the opportunity to earn a nice financial boost should they force a second match at a Premier League ground.

The Premier League is the only top league in Europe that does not take a winter break, a schedule that has been criticized by multiple managers, including Jurgen Klopp.

Judge hears arguments on US women’s team strike rights

HARRISON, NJ - MAY 30:  The United States team poses for a team picture before the match against the South Korea during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on May 30, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago has heard arguments whether the world champion U.S. women’s soccer team has the right to strike for improved conditions and wages before this year’s Olympics.

Lawyers for the U.S. Soccer Federation told Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman at a Thursday hearing that a no-strike clause is implied in a still-valid 2013 memorandum with players.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

But a lawyer for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association balked at that claim. Jeffrey Kessler said the federation had “screwed up” by not securing a no-strike clause in writing and can’t argue three years later that such a provision is implied.

The union wants the option to strike before the Olympics start in August, but hasn’t said it will. Many players have voiced concern over gender equity in soccer.