MLS Media Day: Graham Zusi impressed by rise of MLS

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Next up at MLS Media Day was Graham Zusi, who’s engaging responses revealed a man enjoying life in MLS and not looking for a move abroad.

Thoughts on the upcoming season? 

It will be a busy year but busy is good. At Kansas City, we’re going to put the same goals ahead of us as in past years. We’re taking CCL very seriously and we want to be the first MLS side to win it. We took the time to appreciate what we accomplished last season but we’re now focused on what we need to do.

Discuss the preparation for facing Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League.

We’ve put a lot of emphasis on our pre-season games. So we’re using those as tune-up matches and taking them a bit more seriously than normal. We need to come into the CCL ‘mid-season sharp’. It’s unfortaunte that it’s so early in the season but we’re doing our best to ensure success.

KC may have three guys going to the World Cup — any worries? 

I don’t think we’ll focus on the national team when we’re with the club and vice versa. I’m going to consider my time with the club as being as precious as possible because I have the potential of missing several games for the World Cup. I’m going to try and put Sporting in the best place I can before heading to Brazil.

We do have 2-3 guys who might go but I don’t think it’s an issue. We’ve seen so many guys step in like Soony Sad and Dom Dwyer, who not only filled a void but made cases for themselves to be starters.

How do you view the growth of MLS?

I think if you look at the national team at this point there’s a strong contingent of MLS’ers making play for the national team. Then you look at the league in general, guys coming back. The respect for the league is growing throughout the world. In a few years time we’re going to be one of the best leagues’ in the world.

Tim Cahill believes the Supporters Shield is more important than MLS Cup. Where do you stand?

I tend to agree with Cahill. At KC, we put a big emphasis on being the best team throughout the season. I know it’s not always the team that wins MLS Cup but for us we put a lot of emphasis on winning the Supporters Shield. That consistency throughout the season can carry you through the MLS Cup. We’re going to try and be in that mid-season form, early on.

What happened at KC after winning MLS Cup? 

You saw a lot of guys sticking around building themselves up. I think it’s that mentality of being the best, that expectation of excellence, that mentality that goes top to bottom.

How do you view Toronto’s spending?

I think it speaks to the direction this league is headed. The willingness of owners to dish out that kind of money is incredible. I’m excited to see that Toronto team play.

For me it’s just an exciting time in the league. You know, it’s all kind of coming together. Seeing the Bradley’s and Edu’s wanting to come and be a part of it.

As far as Kansas City goes, I can’t speak enough of the transformation. The transition between the Wizards and Sporting is one of the best success stories you can think of. Different MLS markets have to approach it in different ways.

How does what’s gone on in MLS affect your decision to go abroad?  

There wasn’t really a decision because I can’t say there were many offers to go abroad. So it was a fairly easy choice to remain where I am. MLS is where I’m growing my game the most. Training and competition is very high and it’s the best spot for me at the moment.

Australian women beat US 1-0 in Tournament of Nations

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SEATTLE (AP) Tameka Butt scored in the 67th minute and Australia beat the United States for the first time in the 28-game series, 1-0 in the Tournament of Nations on Thursday night.

The Matildas also snapped the Americans’ four-game winning streak.

Just moments after Butt’s goal got past goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, Carli Lloyd blasted a cross from Megan Rapinoe at Australia goalkeeper Lydia Williams, who made a fantastic save. Lloyd had another chance that sailed just over the net.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Japan and Brazil played to a 1-1 draw in the tournament’s opening game in the afternoon at CenturyLink Field.

Each of the four teams in the tournament is in the top 10 of the FIFA rankings. The top-ranked United States went into the game with a 25-0-2 record over the seventh-ranked Matildas.

Rapinoe, who plays for the NWSL’s Seattle Reign, had a good chance early on in the game but the Americans were unable to break through. Rapinoe has 12 goals to lead the NWSL in scoring this season.

The Matildas have been on the rise of the past several years, with quarterfinal appearances in both the 2015 World Cup and the Olympics last year.

Following the stop in Seattle, the tournament shifts to San Diego on Sunday before wrapping up in Carson, California, on Aug. 3.

U.S. Soccer is looking to host a Tournament of Nations each summer that there isn’t World Cup or Olympic competition.

WATCH: Camila’s wicked swerving goal for Brazil

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The Tournament of Nations got underway earlier Thursday, with Brazil and Japan drawing 1-1 in Seattle.

While some in the crowd may’ve been waiting to see the United States women’s national team and Australia in the second game of the twin bill, they got an absolute treat from Brazil’s Camila.

[ MORE: Galaxy’s season-changing signing ]

The Orlando Pride midfielder is yet to scoop up 10 caps, but blasted this 25-yard goal home with a wicked outside bend.

The aesthetics are terrific.

LA Galaxy’s second Dos Santos signing is a season-changer

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Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.

The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.

Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.

Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.

Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).

Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).

Joey Barton’s gambling ban lowered by almost 5 months

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Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.

Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.

Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:

The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.

“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”

Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.

We may see him on the field in August 2018.