Manaus soccer pitch in disrepair ahead of World Cup 2014

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“Everyone wants to avoid Manaus.”

Those were the words of Jurgen Klinsmann prior to last December’s World Cup draw. And now, three months after having been selected to play their second Group Stage game – a June 22nd contest against Portugal – in that precise venue, the U.S. coach’s words continue to reverberate.

Thursday reports from The Guardian detail the Amazonian venue in a state of disarray ahead of this summer’s tournament. To prepare the field massive amounts of fertilizer was laid to promote growth in the notoriously steamy region where average highs approach 90 degrees with humidity levels at 80 percent. The move proved excessive and backfired leaving large portions of the surface dried out and two sections of the penalty areas nearly devoid of grass.

The Amazônia Arena now faces a race against time to be ready for the opening match between England and Italy on June 14th. Jerocilio Silva, the state official for the stadium, has recalled the São Paolo-based grass company to restore the damaged areas of the pitch and “green crystal chemicals” are now being used to alleviate the problem.

How, exactly, the “green crystal chemicals” are any different from the previous fertilizer that allegedly triggered the problem is unclear. But Silva appears convinced that he has figured out how to deal with the acidic, sandy local soil claiming that this is “the treatment for it to blossom again.”

For the U.S. Men’s National Team, poor field conditions is just one of a number of things Klinsmann has prepared his side to expect in Brazil. During the USMNT’s training in São Paulo last January, Klinsmann visited Manaus and noted that while it’s “absolutely gorgeous” it’s also “a different face of Brazil.”

“‘Listen guys, it’s not going to be all perfect,'” he told his players. “‘We have to be very tolerant and we have to be patient with things. But if we know that in advance you adjust to it right away mentally, it’s no big deal. It’s no problem at all.'”

In addition to England v. Italy and the United States v. Portugal,  Manaus will host two other Group Stage matches: Cameroon v. Croatia on June 18th and Honduras v. Switzerland on June 25th.

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.