Mark Hughes shames the performance of Martin Atkinson after multi-red card affair

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Stoke City lead in-form Newcastle United 1-0 at St. James Park and seemed quite capable of putting some points with their poor away record when referee Martin Atkinson made a series of debatable calls that lead a 9-man Potters squad falling 5-1 and six points below 9th place Southampton.

“We’re dumbstruck by the performance of the referee, unfortunately,” Hughes told Sky Sports. “People say he’s one of the best referees in the league, and he’s performed worse than the standard required today.”

Hughes (see aesthetically-pleasing image of a graceful coat fling above) was sent off soon after defender Glenn Whelan received his second yellow card of the day, effectively dooming Stoke’s rare road lead. Whelan’s first yellow was for kicking the ball away after a rash foul on Moussa Sissoko, but his second seemed to be at-worst up for debate; Yohan Cabaye crumpled after a questionable kick to his lower right leg. It was a silly foul for a man sitting on a yellow, but certainly not so treacherous.

Minutes later, with Hughes in the seats, Marc Wilson received a red card for taking Loic Remy down. A penalty followed and Stoke survived it only to lose its lead on a Newcastle counter attack that followed an non-whistled handball on Mike Williamson.

Hughes went on…

1) On Whelan’s red:

“Apparently, he said that Whelan kicked the ball away, which bemuses me as Cabaye went over the top and Glenn reacted. Two minutes later he receives the second. An experienced referee should get the two players together and tell them to calm down.”

“I’m dismayed by his performance. When you’re on a yellow card you have to be careful, but Glenn’s just as bemused as everybody.”

2) On Wilson’s red:

“I’m assuming it’s for denying a goalscoring opportunity. My view is that there’s a lot of pushing and pulling. He went down very easily, but nobody seemed surprised when the penalty was given.”

3) On his sending off:

“I apologize as I kicked the ball onto the pitch. You have to accept that, but I think everybody who made the long trek to watch us today was disappointed with what happened.”

Hughes said he felt his team were on its way to maximum points before the calls in question and, while the game was very early and on the road against a strong side, many neutrals will agree with the outspoken manager. The Magpies had little trouble capitalizing on the Potters, who lacked composure after the incidents (and quite understandably so).

Landon Donovan unveiled by Club Leon

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Landon Donovan was unveiled to Club Leon fans at Estadio Leon on Monday night.

The former USMNT star and longtime LA Galaxy forward came out of retirement for the second time to sign with the Liga MX side this past weekend. Leon finished 7th in the Apertura table, losing to Tigres in the first round of the playoffs. They currently have a perfect six points through the first two Clausura matches, sitting second in the table with a +3 goal differential.

Fans were allowed into the stadium for free, and they packed the lower stand on one end, waving USA flags and holding large “L” and “D” cutouts, and the fans faced a massive board on the field that read “I DON’T BELIEVE IN WALLS.” Chants of “U-S-A” rang out through the stadium before the unveiling.

ESPN reporter Tom Marshall pointed out that the last time the club had such a large event to welcome a player, it was in January of 2013 when the club brought Mexico captain Rafa Marquez in from the New York Red Bulls.

Donovan will don the number 20 for Club Leon.

Report: Rimando to return to RSL

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USMNT veteran and current MLS free agent Nick Rimando will reportedly return to Real Salt Lake for a 12th season with the club, according to a report by Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep.

The report states he received interest on the free agent market from both Los Angeles clubs, but the 38-year-old will return to the club he has made 350 appearances for.

Rimando came to Real Salt Lake from D.C. United in 2006, and has made at least 24 league appearances in every single season since. He has also made 22 playoff appearances for the club across eight playoff campaigns.

He last received a USMNT cap in January of 2017 in a friendly against Serbia, but was part of the 2018 World Cup qualification squad throughout 2017 backing up Tim Howard. Overall, Rimando has played 22 times for the US national team, with 14 goals conceded and nine clean sheets.

The report also states that Kyle Beckerman will return to Rio Tinto Stadium, with the veteran also testing the free agent waters but deciding to re-sign. The pair will be two of just four players left on the roster from the 2009 MLS Cup winning team.

Report: Aubameyang hands in transfer request at Dortmund

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According to German publication Bild, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has handed a transfer request to the Borussia Dortmund hierarchy.

Arsenal is the latest club linked with the Gabonese striker, with reports earlier this month of a deal to send Aubameyang to China. He has reportedly asked to leave Dortmund multiple times this January, and has been turned down thus far, and it’s causing problems. Aubameyang was suspended by the club for one match for missing a meeting last week, a match that ended in a goalless draw with Wolfsburg.

[ MORE: Man United, Chelsea battle for Alexis Sanchez ]

“We had a very heated discussion,” said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc after the suspension was announced. “He hasn’t behaved like this for years, he’s always been very professional. What has happened is very tolerable, there will be some fines, too. It’s not necessary to talk about a transfer, but it’s clear that things can’t continue like this because some important things are in jeopardy, and that there is tension inside the squad.”

The price tag, according to recent reports, would be around $76 million, and he would be purchased with money from the likely outgoing transfer of Alexis Sanchez.

Arsenal transfer guru Sven Mislintat is reportedly driving the deal, having signed Aubameyang at Dortmund during his days as a scout from Westfalinstadion. However, there is buzz among the British media that Arsene Wenger is unimpressed by Aubameyang’s recent insubordination and has expressed his concerns.

Emre Can says new Liverpool contract still a possibility

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Liverpool midfielder Emre Can is out of contract this summer, but says he could still sign back on at Anfield despite heavy rumors of his departure.

Still just 24 years old, the German came over from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2014 and has improved in each of his four years at Liverpool, flourishing under Jurgen Klopp as a strong passer and versatile player who can be used in midfield or defense. With that, he has reportedly turned down a number of new contract offers, and Juventus is reportedly in the lead to sign him to a free transfer.

[ MORE: Arsenal should follow Liverpool’s rebuilding example ]

Can is eligible to sign a pre-contract agreement with anyone from now until the end of the season, but he says that doesn’t mean he will leave.

“My agent is looking after everything but I am here until the summer,” Can said. “I haven’t signed anything with anyone. I am talking with everyone. Of course I am talking with Liverpool. Why not? I still have a contract here. It is an amazing club. What can I say? My agent does the rest. I just concentrate on the scene, on my performance and the football. I will give everything for this team.”

The loss of Philippe Coutinho this winter is an obvious blow to the Reds, but an argument could be made that the loss of Can would hurt just as much if not more, as stout defensive midfielders are hard to come by. However, the arrival of Naby Kieta this summer could ease the blow of the German’s potential departure. Should Can stay, partnering with Keita in midfield could prove masterful as Liverpool looks to continue building towards a title challenge. Currently, Can has paired with Giorgino Wijnaldum in Liverpool’s midfield in recent weeks, and the club is on a five-match win streak that has seen them shoot into third place in the Premier League table.