Houston scores late to draw with New York Red Bulls, 2-2

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HOUSTON – The New York Red Bulls took command early, but then collapsed beneath the weight of a red card and a motivated second half effort from the home team Sunday, drawing with Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium, 2-2.

Houston rallied for two second half goals, including one in stoppage time, erasing a big first half from the visiting Red Bulls, thus sending the teams’ home-and-away series back up to New York tied on totals goals.

Omar Cummings finished a stoppage time scramble in front of New York’s goal for the late equalizer. Dynamo teammates Ricardo Clark had cut New York’s lead in half with a deflected 52nd-minute shot.

The match really turned 13 minutes later when Red Bulls center back Jamison Olave was shown a straight red for a bad tackle on Cummings. Thus, he will miss the return leg Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.

(MORE: Man of the Match, New York’s Tim Cahill)

The Red Bulls, who were rolling so mightily, with so much authority and swagger through the final weeks of Major League Soccer’s regular season, appeared ready to do the same in the playoffs. If there was any doubt about whether Mike Petke’s team, the 2013 Supporters Shield winners, would forfeit some of that confidence and form once into the post-season, the visitors had removed all doubt within half an hour.

Tim Cahill’s header off Thierry Henry’s swell assist got things going, and by the time Eric Alexander turned and fired into the near post after 30 minutes, the Red Bulls seemed well in control of the Eastern Conference semifinal first leg.

But things changed in the second half, and especially so after Olave’s 65th minute ejection. Houston had all the momentum from there.

Petke’s team looked quite dangerous from the start, sitting back and not really even trying to play with much possession on Houston’s small field. It worked perfectly as Henry got isolated along the left side. His nifty little turn created enough room for a centering ball, which Cahill turned into his first MLS playoff goal on an unchallenged header.

Yes, an unchallenged header; this year’s Dynamo defense just hasn’t been the classic, tough unit to score against we are so used to seeing from Dominic Kinnear clubs.

The defending was sloppy once again as Alexander got free down the right, the finishing touches of yet another quick thrust from the visitors. He turned on Eric Brunner and beat Houston ‘keeper Tally Hall – who didn’t look good on either New York goal – to the near post.

Houston had just a series of half-chances in the opening half before Will Bruin took Boniek Garcia’s sweet little release into the penalty area, pulled it around one defender to create some shooting space … but then hit his lightly contested shot well over New York goal from about 15 yards just before the break.

Houston was much stronger to start the second half, and Clark needed just six minutes to take advantage for David Carney’s awful clearance. Carney ”cleared” a ball from the wing into the middle of the field, where Clark gathered near the top of the penalty area and then saw his deflected shot beat a stranded Luis Robles. That cut the New York lead to 2-1.

New York had lost the initiative when Olave, so commanding at center back when he can stay on the field, when he is not dealing with injuries or suspensions, left his team a man down for 25 minutes.

The ball was nowhere nearby when Olave launched his dangerous tackle from behind on Cummings. Referee Ricardo Salazar was quickly on scene with red card in hand.

Cummings’ late equalizer came after a corner kick, which the Red Bulls failed to clear initially.

Kinnear, suspended but watching from a suite, used a lineup unchanged from the 11 that made easy work of Montreal in a mid-week elimination match.

Lineups

Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall, Kofi Sarkodie, Eric Brunner, Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe; Oscar Boniek Garcia, Warren Creavalle, Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis; Will Bruin, Giles Barnes.

New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles, Markus Holgersson, Ibrahim Sekagya, David Carney, Eric Alexander, Dax McCarty, Jonathan Steele, Peguy Luyidula; Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill

Referee leaders want on-field official to see video replays

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LONDON (AP) Antoine Griezmann headed the ball into the net and was in full celebration mode with his France teammates when referee Felix Swayer pinned a finger into his left ear to block out the stadium noise.

[ VIDEO: VAR system used correctly

An assistant in front of a bank of monitors was assessing replays and had some bad news for Griezmann. Swayer was told through his earpiece that a player was offside in the buildup.

The goal was then ruled out, without Swayer seeing a replay. But that won’t necessarily be the case by the time video replays are fully approved to be rolled out across soccer.

For now, the experimental phase is still in full flow but if refereeing leaders get their way officials should always have access to the footage themselves around the field.

“The subjective decisions should be made by the on-field referee because they have got the feel for the game,” Mike Riley, general manager of English refereeing organization, told The Associated Press. “They can put it in the context of everything else. So as part of the process we have got to work out how we can do that as effectively as possible … without interrupting the flow of the game.”

The International Football Association Board, the game’s lawmaking body, is in its second year of trials with various versions of video assistant referees (VAR). Some games, like the France-Spain friendly, do not allow the referee to evaluate incidents and instead by rely on the VAR.

But VAR could end up only ruling on what Riley describes as “decisions of fact,” such as whether a ball was inside or outside the penalty area.

Ultimately, if you are appointing one of the top referees to preside over a major game, that person is seen as ideal for making the big calls, according to IFAB.

“Fundamentally we are told very much by players and coaches they want the referee to be making the most important decisions,” IFAB technical director David Elleray said, referencing England’s top referee. “They don’t know who is in a van out in the car park or 300 miles away in a match center.”

Soccer’s lawmakers only envisage video replays being used to correct game-changing decisions involving four situations: penalties being awarded, red cards, cases of mistaken identity and goals being scored.

That situation arose twice in the Stade de France on Tuesday as France lost 2-0 to Spain. After Griezmann’s goal was disallowed, video replays worked against France again but in Spain’s favor when an incorrect offside call against Gerard Deulofeu was overturned and his goal stood.

Swayer again relied on the information from a colleague benefiting from replays.

“Nicola Rizzoli was appointed to referee the last World Cup final because he is the best referee,” Elleray said. “But if actually the two most important decisions in the match are made by somebody watching a TV screen … the most important person is the man you put behind the TV screen not the man on the field.”

The challenges are how referees are able to view replays without lengthening the delay. For now the technology isn’t satisfactory for officials to use wearable devices and receive footage in real time. That means going to the side of the field to watch incidents with the eyes of thousands of fans in the stands on them. The screens are likely to be on the opposite side to the technical area to avoid coaches being able to surround and harangue the referee.

“Some of our stadiums don’t lend themselves to monitors by the side of the pitch because they are really tight,” said Riley, a former Premier League referee who is now in charge of appointments for games in the world’s richest soccer competition. “Is it right for referees to have to run 30 yards to go and look? Can you get the footage to the referee on the field somehow? All these things have to be explored through the experiment and come out with a solution that works for football.”

Live experiments are taking place in about 20 competitions this year, including the Confederations Cup in Russia in June and July that will serves as a World Cup test event.

Once IFAB adds video replays to the laws of the game, any competition meeting the requirements will be able to use them.

For Riley, permitting replays is “the most significant change in refereeing in the game for generations,” far more significant than the 2012 decision to allow technology that simply determines whether the ball crossed the goal line.

“If you are making such a significant change,” Riley said, “you need to really explore and understand all the potential implications.”

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

Amid fanfare, Bastian Schweinsteiger arrives in Chicago

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Arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, it is clear Bastian Schweinsteiger is kind of a big deal…

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Posing for photos with fans as he stepped off the flight with his wife, former Serbian tennis star Ana Ivanovic, the former Bayern Munich midfielder was mobbed by Chicago Fire fans who are delighted he has arrived in Major League Soccer as the newest Designated Player.

The German legend has completed his move from Manchester United to the Fire and will be officially unveiled to the media on Wednesday after signing a one-year deal.

[ MORE: Latest MLS news ]

Schweinsteiger, 32, has already had a training session in the books and the World Cup winner is expected to make his debut in Chicago’s home clash with the Montreal Impact on Saturday at Toyota Park.

Below is a video of Schweinsteiger’s arrival in Chicago, his first training session and a collection of photos he took with ecstatic Fire fans.


Liverpool’s Emre Can scores stunning goal in training

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Emre Can, take a bow.

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Alongside Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum, the German international stole the show as BT Sport rocked up for an episode of “Goals Recreated” at Melwood.

The premise is simple: can current day PL players recreate sensational goals of the past?

On this occasion each player had four attempts to mirror Papiss Cisse‘s stunning goal for Newcastle United against Chelsea, and although Mane came close Can was the man of the moment.

Click play on the video below to see the stunning effort.


Barcelona defends Messi over “unfair” suspension

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi’s four-match international suspension for insulting a linesman was “unfair and totally disproportionate.”

[ MORE: Messi handed ban by FIFA ]

Barcelona released a statement Wednesday expressing “its surprise and indignation” with FIFA’s decision to sideline the playmaker for so long following the incident in Argentina’s win over Chile in World Cup qualifying last week.

The punishment was announced before Argentina lost at Bolivia 2-0 Tuesday, a result that left the two-time champions at risk of not qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia.

Barcelona says it “wishes to reiterate its support for Leo Messi, an exemplary player in terms of conduct both on and off the field.”

Pending an appeal, Messi will only be available to play in Argentina’s final qualifier, on Oct. 10 against Ecuador.