MLS Week in Review: Round 34

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Who clinched … and who is now eliminated

As the weekend began, 13 teams were still in contention for 8 unclaimed playoff spots. Some were more “in contention” than others, so to speak. Still, that’s an impressive number, all things considered. But the picture looks much different this morning.

We know the five playoff teams from the West, even if it’s something less than official: Portland, Real Salt Lake, Los Angeles, Seattle and Colorado will take part in the post-season. San Jose maintains a mathematical chance but would have to score a ridiculous number of goals next week, and have help. That won’t happen.

In addition to New York and Kansas City, who have clinched, five teams now remain eligible for three remaining spots out of the East: Montreal, Chicago, New England, Houston and Philadelphia.

Columbus and Vancouver were the teams officially eliminated over the weekend, along with (unofficially) San Jose. Here’s how the standing look; pay attention to that telling red line, which indicates the teams now in playoff position:

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Still much to play for

Even in the West, there’s still plenty to talk about with Round 35 coming up. Much of it is about teams seeking first, second or third. Remember, the fourth- and fifth-place finishers fact an extra playoff round, and one that puts them on the spot in terms of travel and packing matches into a small window going into the next round. That, and for some teams it’s also about …

Supporters Shield race

New York seized the inside track with a resounding (and somewhat shocking) 3-0 win over Houston. Sporting Kansas City and Portland remain within striking distance, but they both finish on the road. New York is the only club that controls its own Supporters Shield fate – and Mike Petke’s team has a winnable contest at home against just-hanging-on Chicago.

One MLS match is up Wednesday, then a full round of (nine) weekend matches will decide it all.

The quick goal – the quickest goal ever in MLS

When Deshorn Brown needed just 14 seconds after kickoff to score a few weeks ago, it was the second fastest goal in MLS history. Of course, Brown’s goal came at a loiterers pace compared to Tim Cahill’s doings. Cahill scored the fastest goal in MLS history, just seven seconds into New York’s 3-0 win at Houston.

Here’s his goal from BBVA Compass Stadium in South Texas on Sunday:

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Yes, Seattle is in the playoffs

There surely wasn’t any car honking in the streets, but Seattle did, in fact, qualify late Sunday night for the playoffs. It probably falls as cold comfort to Sounders fans, who have seen their team struggle so mightily over the last few weeks – and who cannot feel good about their team going into the post-season. (Although getting some players healthy will surely help.) Either way, it brings us to this …

The growing Dempsey debate

We might be talking even more about the Seattle Sounders unbelievable late-season collapse; Sigi Schmid’s struggling club is winless in six, having lost four in a row after yet another setback over the weekend, a 2-0 loss to Dallas. We would be, except that the growing Clint Dempsey discussion is a bit distracting. The count is now up to eight. As in, eight with no goals and no assists for the Sounders. It’s certainly not all the U.S. international’s fault. In fact, not much is his fault. The team looks simply awful. And, yes, expectations were unfairly exaggerated. But that’s what you get with transfer fees well into the millions, and with being the league’s highest paid man.

Two 20-goal scorers … and a great Golden Boot race

Marco Di Vaio and Mike Magee scored Saturday, both moving their goal total to 20 for the season, both still in contention for Golden Boot. And it’s fair to ask if a league MVP will go along with this year’s Golden Boot? It will certainly be an influence on voters.

Then again, Vancouver’s Camilo could still have something to say about it. He also scored on Saturday, although in a loss that saw his Whitecaps officially eliminated.

Best goal in Round 33

Considering not just the technical merit, but also that it was a game-winner for Colorado, Gabriel Torres’ wonderful left-footed strike against Vancouver checked a lot of boxes. It will go a long way toward getting his Rapids into the playoffs. And it put the Whitecaps out.

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Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

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The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

Photo by Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy/Qatar 2022 via Getty Images
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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

Photo credit: Liverpool FC / Twiter: @LFC
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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.